High school football: The perfect system?
Sports administrators in DeKalb County say they have the best high school athletics system in the state. All gate receipts from athletics competition go into general coffers, which then pay for all the athleticsprograms. The 19 high schools and 30 middle schools share five football stadiums, and the county recently issued booster club guidelines that forbid parents from taking on debt for the athletics program. DeKalb County athletics director Charlie Henderson, athletics coordinator Ron Sebree and director of student activities Randall Lee sat down with staff writer Craig Custance to talk about the DeKalbathletics system.
Q: Your teams share football fields. Shouldn’t each school have its own stadium?
Charlie Henderson: For what? Why? That spending is bad when it comes to different booster clubs. A neighboring county had boosters come in and build a weight room, then the other boosters came in the next year and said, ‘We don’t want that weight room. We ain’t paying for that weight room.’ Who’s going to pay for all those things when you get into deficit spending?
Q: When did you give guidelines to your booster clubs and why?
Henderson: We started this because there were problems with where money was being spent, where money was going when booster clubs would raise money. There was no accountability.
Randall Lee: The guidelines are very broad guidelines. What it did was try to establish a framework so that everybody is on the same page, not to try to limit. In our guidelines, it does say that deficit spending is not allowed. You can’t go borrow a loan and finance for 10 years to put up a special weight room, or buy a trailer.
Q: What do you think when you hear about booster clubs spending big money and taking out loans to build athletics facilities?
Henderson: One of our administrators had a kid going to a local school, and he was saying that there were three tiers of membership dues — $1,500 if you want to get yourself on the field; $1,000 for the ones who will get out there a little bit; $500 if he’s a stud, because he’ll get out there anyway. You want a kid on the kickoff team? That’s $1,500.
Q: Is that really going on?
Henderson: Oh, shoot yeah. All across. And it’s going on in DeKalb even. I’m not saying we’re going to charge $1,500, but somebody is going to give more than the others.
Q: How do you keep a booster club from getting too politically powerful?
Sebree: You have to set guidelines as a head coach. … The best thing to do is communicate with them. ‘Why is my son not playing?’ ‘Well, your son isn’t fast enough and he didn’t gain weight. Your son can’t catch.’
Henderson: The politically powerful boosters, they are going to complain [and] they are going to move their kids around. The extremely rich, if their kid is not playing over here, they’ll move him over here to play. They’ll buy another house. The extremely poor kids, if they’re not playing, somebody will come get them and put them in an apartment down the street. The middle class kids are the ones who have to stay where they are. They can’t go nowhere. They have to stay there and play. The rich and the poor, they go where they want.
Q: If I’m giving $5,000, doesn’t that come with expectations?
Henderson: That’s what I was telling you. That’s what we’re eliminating. You’re going to have somebody who cannot give it. Why should that kid be playing more than the kid equal to him because he gave $5,000. Is that fair?
Lee: I’ve never run across a coach who looks down before they make their starting lineup and see who has paid their dues.
Henderson: Because [they] know who has paid them. You know whose paying them. You know who’s there, you know who comes and is going to give. Even in your PTA or anything you have at school, the people who are answering the telephone, they want something, too.