Seventh Grade Football To Return At Iowa City Junior High Schools

After it was cut two years ago due to budget cuts, the ICCSD is bringing back seventh grade tackle football.

Celeste Chadwick, Reporter

After the school board debated cutting seventh grade football, fourth grade orchestra, and world language programs in 2014, the school board has decided to reinstate ICCSD seventh grade football. This decision was made after the district athletic director proposed refunding the program. According to this proposal, it would cost an estimated $18,082 to $23,109 to bring back football.

“It’s the right thing to do, no question about it,” City High head football coach, Dan Sabers said. “To me it was a real low point when they decided to take away the sport that is the most popular sport for high school boys.”

Sabers emphasizes the point that football welcomes a wide range of abilities.

“There’s not many sports like it where you can take someone 300 pounds and you can someone 150 pounds,” he said. “[Football] includes a lot of kids and especially kids that don’t always get opportunities to do other sports.”

Despite these benefits of bringing back football, the other programs that were also cut, are still suffering.

“I would have preferred bringing back German,” City High French teacher Tony Balcaen said. “It’s sad, but world languages aren’t considered very often. It feels like languages aren’t important. I knew we wouldn’t have been the first choice.”

Balcaen would have preferred to see German reinstated in the curriculum, followed by the return of fourth grade orchestra.

“It took us backwards,” Balcaen said. “Some kids had plans to do German but now can’t. It’s less choices in a district as big as ours.”

However, Sabers believes it gives students an opportunity to get more involved outside of school.

“The junior high principals all want [football] back, the athletic directors all want it back, high school principals want it back, [the] superintendent wants it back, assistant superintendent wants it back. That’s a lot of professionals who want it back,” he said.

In addition, many students believe that sports are an important part of school, and are excited to see the change.

“I’m glad they decided to bring it back, sports are an important part of the school experience,” Drew Owen ’20 said. “It was really frustrating for me as someone who missed out on Southeast football as a result of the cuts and had to go find an alternative.”

Despite the popular push for football, Balcaen believes it is ideal to begin learning a new language at a younger age.

“I think it’s sad, because while sports are important here, they have an opportunity to do them later on,” he said. “Language and music are things you need to work on for a longer period of time and so you need to start earlier than eighth and ninth grade.”

Despite deciding to reimplement football, the district is still working on budget cuts. It would save approximately $10,070 as a result of eliminating flag football, which was added as a cheaper alternative for tackle football. In addition, the district has recently saved $15,271 by cutting girls’ junior high basketball coaching staff and reducing the number of teams from eleven to six due to a decline in participation.

“Junior high sports has always been about participation and getting kids involved,” Sabers said. “It was the right decision.”