GCHS soccer remains in limbo

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 31, 2006

GATESVILLE – Opinions continue to differ about the fate of soccer at Gates County High School.

The one thing all factions seem to agree on is that there will be soccer next spring for the girls. Other than that, the future of the sport in the fall of 2006 is shaky at best.

Gates County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Zenobia Smallwood insists the district is working on adding a soccer team and said Red Baron Athletic Director Clark Harrell is trying to put together a schedule and other necessary parts of a team.

Board of Education member Leslie Byrum insists a team will be at Gates County this fall, but said he believes it will be a club team with no conference games and, possibly, no schedule.

The dilemma began earlier this month when the Gates County Board of Education received information from Student Services Director Adrienne Bradley about adding soccer to the GCHS athletic program.

When Bradley reported the school would begin soccer in the spring of 2007 with a girl’s squad, Byrum and fellow board member Paulette Wester took umbrage, saying the sport should have started in the fall as they promised the Gates County Commissioners.

The Gates County Commissioners, who did appropriate additional funding to the school district, did not specifically approve funding for soccer, however.

Interim Gates County Manager Tim Russell said the Gates County Commissioners did not appropriate money for soccer. He said the school district gave a list of reasons they needed more funding and additional funds were allocated, but the commissioners did not approve the appropriation based on the addition of a soccer team at the high school.

&uot;I don’t remember anything about promising to field soccer,&uot; Russell said. &uot;Our board, by law, does not have the legal authority to appropriate current expense money for specific purposes.&uot;

And while Wester and Byrum were insisting on starting in the fall, board member Doug Lilley said it was not possible and the two sides each stated their case publicly before retiring to closed session when Byrum declared, &uot;names need to be mentioned.&uot;

One of the people pointed to in the meeting was Harrell, who Wester said was at fault for not having a team prepared to play in the fall.

Since the meeting, Harrell said he was informed that he was to put together a soccer team in the fall. He said he was told to put together a schedule, find a coach, a playing surface and field a team.

The athletic director said his first report about soccer came July 20 while he was at the coach’s clinic in Greensboro. He said he put together a proposal and had it on the superintendent’s desk by August 10.

&uot;First of all, if you’re going to implement a new sport in the fall, you would need to be included in the conference schedule and that would have been done at our conference meetings in May,&uot; he said. &uot;If I were aware of these intentions, I would have included a conference schedule for soccer and had a meeting with potential players last fall.

&uot;We would have hit the field running on the first day of practice if I had been informed,&uot; he said. &uot;As it is, I’ve been told to put it together so I will put it together as best I can as quickly as I can.&uot;

The coach said he was working to implement a program in the fall but admitted at this time he has no coach, no playing field, no schedule and no equipment.

&uot;So far, when I’ve called, schedules (of possible opponents) are full, but I’m trying to do what I can,&uot; he said.

Harrell was also concerned about how the addition of soccer was gone about at Gates County High School. Because of average daily membership, the school is looking at the real possibility of being a 2-A school in just two years when the North Carolina High School Athletic Association holds it’s four-year realignment.

&uot;As things appear now, we will be a 2-A school in 2008,&uot; he said. &uot;If that is the case I think it would mean we should look at all sports that need to be added to become part of a 2-A conference.

&uot;I fully support adding soccer, but there are other sports we will need to add. We should have been looking at all the possibilities,&uot; he said.

And while Harrell is busy trying to put together a soccer squad for the fall, Lilley remains insistent that it will not happen.

&uot;I’m standing firm with the way I see it,&uot; Lilley said. Everybody will come to realize it.&uot;

Where Lilley stood in the first meeting was that there were too many obstacles to overcome.

&uot;Where are they going to play, Paulette?&uot; Lilley asked. &uot;We don’t have a field to play soccer on.

&uot;We can’t go into this haphazardly,&uot; he continued. &uot;We can’t even take care of what we have now, much less a soccer program. There is a lot to do before a soccer team can take the field.&uot;