My Turn: CIFC's travel ultimatum for Juneau is a 'bunch of manure'

Posted: Tuesday, January 04, 2005

After I read the article in the Juneau Empire about the Cook Inlet Football Conference giving Juneau-Douglas High School the ultimatum, pay up or get out, I thought what a bunch of manure.

My name is Bryan Wilson. I have been involved with Juneau Football since 1989. I started out as a football coach and soon thereafter I became involved with the Juneau Youth Football League (JYFL) board, and later I served as President of JYFL. The active participants of the Juneau Youth Football League along with the generous support of our incredible community is the sole reason both the youth in our community have an opportunity to play this great game and our local high school can compete regionally as well as with the rest of the state. The Juneau Youth Football League was put together to provide our children with the same opportunity as every city in America has, to learn teamwork, sportsmanship, honor, and courage, while participating in a great sport. As well as affording our community the opportunity to bring us together, and support the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears.

Before Juneau's football team was affiliated with the high school, we played as a club team, struggling to negotiate the logistics of playing a sanctioned high school football game, so as to give our children the opportunity to play football. The majority of our games were with Canadian teams that had a lot of the same logistic problems as Juneau. So we approached the high school to accept, or to start a football program. Their answer was we do not have the funding for that type of program! After several years and considerable negotiation the high school agreed to support a football program as long as it was totally funded by the community through JYFL with no expense whatsoever to the school district - including the cost of coaching salaries.

Although we had the support of the local high school, that did not get us into the state high school system. Even after all this, the Cook Inlet Football Conference (CIFC) says that, because we are not competitive enough we would be put on a probation period. Our "so-called" probation period consisted of four to five years of playing a few Anchorage teams (when they had no one else to play), if we did not lose a single game we might be given the chance to play in the state playoffs. Not only did we have this totally unfair and ambiguous system of entering the state playoffs, Juneau (Alaska's capital city) had to pay the visiting teams way to Juneau, put them up, and feed them.

So after six years, of only having a five- to six-game schedule and most of those games with Canadian teams. The Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA) and the CIFC decided, that Juneau could join the conference and participate in the state football playoffs. Our school district would now arrange the football schedule for us, but we would be required to pay for those games at a cost of 27 airline tickets per game. Now keep in mind when Juneau would arrange a game with a Canadian team, the Canadian team would share in the travel cost. After 10 years of doing everything the CIFC wanted, the conference finally agreed to share in the cost of travel to Juneau. They finally agreed to accept 20 airline tickets instead of 27.

After all this the CIFC now wants 30 tickets or Juneau is out. What a bunch of manure. Anchorage teams have to save their money so they can visit other high school football teams all over the United States. In the past few years Anchorage teams have traveled to Hawaii, California, Montana and Tennessee to mention a few, occasionally even being afforded the opportunity to travel to the lower 48 twice in one year. Yet they require Juneau to fulfill the CIFC teams' obligation to play the in-state teams such as Fairbanks. One team a year from the CIFC is required to play the Fairbanks teams. If every team took a turn at traveling to Fairbanks the teams would only have to travel once every three years! Juneau was required to play the Fairbanks teams every year. When we objected, our answer was - "do you want to play in the Cook Inlet Conference or not?"

A football team has 11 players on offence and 11 on defense, most high school teams have players that play both ways. That's 22 players lets say 4 subs, and 2 coaches 28 in all. That's 14 for each team, less than half of what the CIFC wants Juneau to pay.

Charles Bingham is right on in his article in the Juneau Empire sports section Friday, Dec. 24th, except for one thing. It's time for our Juneau School District and the ASAA to stand up and say enough is enough. The Alaska people don't want a made-up state football championship. It's time for the ASAA and the Juneau School District to take some of this responsibility to see that our kids can enjoy the same opportunity as the rest.

Solutions! How about a Southeast Conference, this way Juneau, and the rest of the Southeastern teams, can compete with each other and like the other conferences in the state given two seats into the playoffs. This should be a viable option if other in-state schools don't want to share in the cost of travel. To play in the Rail Belt conference is another possibility, but only if the cost of travel is shared.

Juneau wants nothing more than what's fair. So lets do the right thing.

• Bryan Wilson is a lifetime board member and former president of the JYFL.

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