The Juneau-Douglas High School football team and its sponsor, the Juneau Youth Football League, will have to carry more of the financial burden for travel if the Crimson Bears are to remain part of the Cook Inlet Football Conference.
During a meeting held Thursday in Anchorage, the conference said it wants Juneau to buy more airline tickets for its Anchorage teams to use when they travel to games in Juneau. Otherwise, the Anchorage-based league might sever ties with the Crimson Bears.
Conference officials voted into its bylaws that Juneau has to pay for 30 tickets for each CIFC varsity game it hosts next year. Last season, the Crimson Bears purchased 20 tickets for varsity players and 15 junior varsity tickets for each Juneau home game.
"We are going to counter and start negotiations with 27 tickets, which is what was in our original agreement," JYFL president Karen Lawfer said after a JYFL board retreat held Saturday. She was referring to the original CIFC agreement with Juneau - before Juneau started a JV team - that allowed the Crimson Bears to join the conference in 1996.
Lawfer said JDHS activities director Sandi Wagner will take a proposal for 27 tickets to East Anchorage High School activities principal Sue Holway, the coordinating principal for football for the Anchorage School District, so Holway can get feedback from the Anchorage schools. Lawfer said she's not sure when to expect a response.
"It is 30 tickets, that's what was passed (Thursday) in the bylaws," Holway said. "We're entering new ground and I'm not sure what we'll do if they come back with a counter proposal."
In addition, the JYFL board is offering to switch home games from Friday to Saturday nights to avoid missed school, and provide housing - a spot to roll out sleeping bags on the gym floor - and a team breakfast for each visiting team. Lawfer said the JYFL doesn't want to pay for tickets if Juneau earns the right to host a first-round playoff game.
Increasing the number of tickets was a compromise to keep Juneau in the conference, Holway said. Some teams wanted to drop Juneau from the conference because of the addition of South Anchorage this year and Eagle River next year. She said some teams didn't want to raise the money to travel to Juneau, and others were concerned about security at games due to recent fan rowdiness at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
"This year Service had to raise $9,000 to send a varsity and junior varsity team to Juneau," Holway said. Holway said the Alaska School Activities Association suggested the conference look at going back to the league's original deal with Juneau rather than dropping the Crimson Bears. Holway also said the CIFC is planning to create a travel fund that would provide an extra $2,000 per team when traveling to Juneau.
The 30-ticket proposal isn't the only issue on the table, as the CIFC doesn't want to send junior varsity teams to Juneau any more because of the cost.
"What we had to do was look at how do we keep a JV program going if they're not going to pay for the JV (teams) to come down here," Lawfer said.
Lawfer said the JYFL board decided to see what it can do to lock in home-and-home series with Ketchikan and Sitka for next year, plus it is looking to see if it can get Kodiak and a Railbelt Conference team to come to Juneau to fill a seven-game JV schedule.
"We're shooting for four home games and three away," Lawfer said.
There is a varsity scheduling meeting set for January. But Lawfer said the ASAA board is set to discuss in February a proposal to extend the high school season from eight to nine games. Lawfer said Juneau needs to get airline tickets purchased by March to lock in fares and seats on the plane.
Holway and Lawfer both said the ASAA board needs to look at how many teams from each conference qualify for the playoffs, especially since the CIFC could have nine teams to the Railbelt's six next year. Each conference gets four playoff spots under the current system.
The JYFL board hasn't set an exact figure for the cost, but Lawfer said purchasing as many as 7-10 extra plane tickets for each home game is like adding another full game's worth of tickets to the annual budget. She said tickets were about $280 round trip each last season, but that may increase next year with rising fuel costs.
The JYFL already requires each high school player to pay $250 in activity fees, sell $400 in raffle tickets and $600 in ads for the team's annual program book. In addition, players have to provide at least 10 hours of service to the Chorebusters program, where players are hired by the community to perform odd jobs with the money going to the football program. The JYFL's travel budget in 2003 was $235,000 for the JV and varsity teams, and this year's total was higher because Juneau didn't host a first-round playoff game.
"I think we've hit the saturation point on what we can expect from our kids," Lawfer said about the fund-raising. "They (the Anchorage teams) said they can't raise the money to go to Juneau, but they can raise the money for out-of-state travel. Service went to Montana and didn't get a first down. Chugiak was going to go to Hawaii, and West and Bartlett both traveled. But they can't come to Juneau."
Lawfer said the JYFL board also is looking for a long-term solution, figuring that next year's 27-30 tickets might just be a bandage. She said Juneau might have to move to the Railbelt Conference, or go back to being an independent team.
"We take this as a challenge," Lawfer said. "They're giving us lemons again, so we'll find a way to make lemonade."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.