Blue Ridge board members dislike football co-op proposal

BELLFLOWER — Blue Ridge school board members are not happy with a proposal from the Ridgeview school district to create a co-op varsity football team.

Blue Ridge High School Principal John Lawrence said this week that he was approached by Ridgeview High School Principal Jim Campbell "a little over a month ago" to consider a possible football co-op for the 2014 school year.

He said that "right now" the numbers don't look good for Blue Ridge to field a varsity football team for 2014, noting there may be 20 students interested in participating. This season Blue Ridge has had only a junior varsity team, and seniors are not allowed to participate. "Right now, we have 15 active players," he said.

Lawrence said Ridgeview's program is also suffering, with several players out due to injuries. Ridgeview may not be able to field a team by the end of the season. "They don't want to go through what we're going through," Lawrence said.

The agreement Ridgeview put together calls for that high school to be the host field for all but one home game, which would be played in Blue Ridge. It also states the official name would be the Ridgeview/Blue Ridge football co-op and colors would remain Ridgeview colors while the mascot, the Mustangs, will also be the same.

Three of the four coaches would be hired by Ridgeview, while one would be hired by Blue Ridge.

That coach would drive his players to practice every day in Colfax, about a 45-mile one-way trip from Farmer City. Each team would keep gate receipts for their home games and Blue Ridge students would be required to pay a $35 participation fee. Since Ridgeview doesn't have cheerleaders, Blue Ridge would be allowed to use their football cheerleading team.

He said Ridgeview is willing to negotiate and he hopes Blue Ridge is also willing to negotiate.

But school board members didn't like the plan.

"You lose your identity. You lose your brand," said board member Dana Evans. "Logistics are a real problem."

Board member Justin Otto asked how potential players feel about the possibility of suiting up as part of a Ridgeview team. He pointed out that it's a "terrible drive up there," and that some of the away games might even be closer than the home games, especially some of those played in the Heart of Illinois Conference.

Board President Bart Lytel said Ridgeview has nothing to lose with the proposal.

"They've gained everything. Participation fees. Gate fees. I can't agree to that," he said. "We get one coach, they get three?"

Lawrence said the proposal is a preliminary talking point and Superintendent Susan Wilson said there's already been an official public meeting set up for the two districts at 7 p.m. Nov. 6 at Blue Ridge High School in Farmer City.

"We want to get community input," said Wilson, noting the agreement could be signed for no more than two years.

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