DODDS Pacific faces tough budget decisions on sports

Education
Humphreys boys volleyball players celebrate with coach Ashley Gooch, left, after their Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference debut Friday at Camp George, South Korea. The Blackhawks stunned Daegu, rallying to beat them 8-25, 25-17, 13-25, 25-16, 15-12 in the first match in school history, played by players all in their first varsity match. (Photo by Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)
From Stripes.com
Humphreys boys volleyball players celebrate with coach Ashley Gooch, left, after their Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference debut Friday at Camp George, South Korea. The Blackhawks stunned Daegu, rallying to beat them 8-25, 25-17, 13-25, 25-16, 15-12 in the first match in school history, played by players all in their first varsity match. (Photo by Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

DODDS Pacific faces tough budget decisions on sports

by: Dave Ornauer | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: October 01, 2013

TORII STATION, Okinawa — Far East sports tournaments are still on the schedule. Regular seasons have not yet been shortened either. But belt-tightening will be a way of life for DODDS Pacific sports now and into the future, and tough choices might have to be made, officials said.

“We know we’re going to have to do more with less,” DODDS Pacific spokesman Charly Hoff said during a Monday conference at the agency’s area office.

Beyond the specters of the Sequester and a possible government shutdown, not having a Fiscal Year 2014 budget in place is creating uncertainty about the future of Pacific high school sports, Hoff said.

As a result, “no decisions have been made,” he said, adding reductions won’t be limited to athletics, but will involve “multiple areas. Difficult decisions are going to have to be made. Once we get the FY 14 budget … I think we’ll be able to develop specific strategies.”

For now, the fall sports season remains in business as normal mode, Hoff said. “The marching orders we have now are to continue with the fall sports. We’re not curtailing at the moment.”

“We’re still planning to have Far East events in all the sports,” said Don Hobbs, Far East athletics coordinator. “There might be a little different face, a different make up to them, but we don’t know what that’s going to be just because of the budget deficiencies that we’re going to have to face.”

Football may face some of the biggest challenges, Hobbs said. A 2014 season schedule probably won’t be drafted until January, but some games involving teams flying from site to site may be axed, he said.

“We’re going to keep it as close to what we presently have as possible, but with a reduction in the number of inter-district games,” he said.

Football doesn’t have a more traditional Far East event as other sports such as basketball and volleyball do, “so the money is spent along the way as we work toward the championship games,” Hobbs said. “But even so, (football) has to pay its fair share of the reductions.”

DODDS Pacific will listen, Hobbs said, to any alternative suggestions that coaches throughout the region might draw up. Daegu High athletics director Ken Walter has proposed having Korea and Okinawa teams form a West Division and DODDS Japan an East Division, for example.

“We’re open to anything and everything,” Hobbs said. “Whether it comes to fruition, it all depends. We’d have to come up with something concrete and discuss it” with district superintendents, who meet later this week. “And of course, we have to keep in mind the price tag.”

Another agenda item for that meeting is the possibility that DODDS Japan’s Yokota, Zama American and Nile C. Kinnick and DODDS Korea’s schools would withdraw from their respective regular leagues and play just against each other on weekends, as is done in DODDS Europe.

“It will be discussed,” Hobbs said. “Only time will tell. But right now, I don’t have an answer for that.”

Such a move would cut busing costs and the amount of class time missed by students to travel to weekday games. Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference plays Wednesday games, while the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools schedules games throughout the week.

For the moment, it’s play on, but brace for tough financial times ahead. “We’re going to try to do just as much or more with less money and find ways to make it work,” Hobbs said.

ornauer.dave@stripes.com