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Prep Football: Vanlue program in jeopardy?

By TED RADICK
staff writer
The future of Vanlue football, at least for the 2014 season, appears to be in doubt.
An informal signup earlier in the winter indicated that 30 students were interested in playing football this coming fall.
Those number appear to have withered.
Vanlue principal Traci Conley said a meeting of interested players and their parents was held Monday.
Only ten students attended the meeting.
“The school board felt the lack of attendance at the meeting was concerning,” Conley said Friday.
Conley said Vanlue coach Chris Yeater was working the phones this week, contacting those students who initially signed up and didn’t attend the meeting, and other students who weren’t on the signup list.
“I don’t have an exact number yet of how many will play,” Conley said. “The board is looking at what direction we should go if we do not have the numbers. Right now, the board the looking at every avenue before any decision is made.”
Yeater, who recently won a battle to retain his job as head coach after he was initially recommended for non-renewal by Vanlue superintendent Rod Russell, said he thinks he’ll have enough players to field a team.
“There were kids who I knew couldn’t make the meeting,” he said. “I am 100 percent confident we’ll have plenty of kids. I expect about 25 kids, to be realistic.
“I should have done a better job of getting the word out to the parents about the meeting. Some of the parents didn’t find out until the day of; I should have done a better job to talking to them.”
A decision will need to be made soon. Bylaw 33 of the Blanchard Valley Conference requires member schools to give six months notice before the first day of football practice (Aug. 1 this year) if they don’t field a varsity team.
If Vanlue does decide not to field a team this year, it must notify the BVC by Feb. 1.
Hardin Northern, under Bylaw 33, paid $12,993.66 to five schools that were unable to schedule home games in its place after the district missed the six-month deadline last season.
“We know we have to report or face a hefty fine,” Yeater said. “And, you know, that makes sense. It’s a good rule, because it was a real hardship for the other BVC schools to find a makeup game at the last minute last year.”
The BVC Executive Committee met last week and approved changes to Bylaw 33. In addition to the gate receipt penalty, a school giving late notice must also pay for its opponents’ travel costs to a newly-scheduled away game, if applicable. Other new penalties linked to the bylaw include picking up the contracted costs of officials and security, among other changes. In short, the financial hit to a school not giving the league proper notice would be much larger than what Hardin Northern had to pay.
“I’d be the last one to walk off the field, but I would never field a team just to say we have a team, if that makes sense,” Yeater said. “You have to make sure your kids are physically and mentally ready to go.”
Conley said much the same thing.
“All in all, we just want what’s best for the district and the students,” Conley said. “The board will make a decision before Feb. 1.”
Vanlue, with an enrollment of 30 boys in grades 9-11, is the smallest school in Ohio with a football team.
The Wildcats were 0-10 last season and had their lone victory in 2012 erased by forfeit for using an ineligible player.
That cost the district a $1,000 fine to the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
Vanlue’s last winning season came in 1964.
Radick, 419-427-8405,
tedradick@thecourier.com