In Apr. 24-30 issue By Derek Aaron Times Journal Sports Editor
The Russell County School's soccer program has been suspended for at least two years and all games that were scheduled for the upcoming season have been canceled, according to School Superintendent Scott Pierce
The events surrounding the school board's decision to suspend the program began nearly month ago when it was first rumored through the halls of county schools that the program could be eliminated.
During Monday night's school board meeting, the rumors became a reality as the school district's $12,000 a year soccer program was officially "suspended."
Boy's Head Coach Bob Williams, who is also a teacher at Russell Springs Elementary, met with the High School Athletic Director, Rita Branscum, and Darren Gossage, RCHS principal a month ago to first discuss the situation with the soccer program, he said at a special-called soccer meeting last Thursday.
Williams said he left the meeting with Branscum and Gossage under the impression that soccer and some of the other programs such as track and tennis could be cut completely.
According to Williams, a site-based council meeting was scheduled for the next day at the high school with soccer to be on the agenda.
Williams' wife, Kim, who has been everything from a coach to a chaperon for the soccer program, was to attend that meeting. She said when she arrived at the meeting that she found out that it had already taken place.
"After reading through the board policy book … I found out that I had 10 days to file an official appeal to go against any decisions that were made at that site-based meeting where they had suspended soccer," she said.
Williams said she called the high school on March 20 to talk with Gossage about an appeal but didn't speak with him. She said she left several numbers for him to call and talk to her about the appeal.
After she did not receive a return call, she said she attempted to contact Gossage again several days later, before school hours, but to no avail. During the same time, Williams had also been in contact with athletic officials with the KHSAA in Frankfort during those days, trying to find out what her next move was to be.
She said she faxed her "official appeal" to the high school on March 25 with a cover letter and that it was received at the high school. Officials in Frankfort had also called the Board of Education to make them aware of the appeal by Williams and the site-based meeting taking place at the wrong time, she said.
When Williams met with Gossage that afternoon, she said that he told her it was no longer a site-based decision.
According to Williams, Gossage said three soccer players from the middle school had played junior varsity and that it was no longer a site-based decision to suspend the program because the situation involved more than one school.
She said it was now a district decision and that it would be left up to Supt. Pierce and the school board to decide the fate of the program. Bob and Kim Williams both have said they would coach the program for free, or for as little as possible, to help save the program $5,000 in costs.
Williams said she later had a meeting with Pierce and that he told her that the program needed to institute a youth league program to develop interest and that the Upward soccer program at the Russell Springs First Baptist Church was not a feeder program into the high school program. Bob Williams also said he has, on several occasions, mowed what used to be the soccer field before games just so the field could be presentable to play on.
He was adamant as to how many Russell County soccer players had received scholarships over the past several years.
"Somebody, somewhere, is noticing," he said. "Isn't that what counts?" Williams said he only spent $400 last year for supplies such as balls and a few uniform replacements.
Wesley Evans, whose son Jackson plays soccer, voiced his displeasure over the suspension of the program at the school board meeting on Monday saying that the players have went out of their way the past few years to maintain a successful program.
Several players presented a petition to keep the program going to the board on Monday. Zachary Sales, a sophomore on the team, said they had collected 200 signatures in the school in support of the soccer program.
Senior player Chris Lawless said he'd been playing the game for 14 years and because of the program, he was offered a chance to play on one of the United States Marine's soccer teams instead of going to Iraq or Afghanistan after his training.
The high school athletic department also received some tough news during the meeting as the board for a 20 percent, across-the-board cut to its annual subsidy of more than $100,000.
The soccer program suspension was part of that 20 percent cut. At the meeting, Supt. Pierce said the girl's soccer team forfeited several games last season because of a lack of players. He also said there had been no recent interest shown for the open girl's coaching position.
Now, the entire soccer program is suspended for at least two years as the school board ponders the next route to take while the approximately 35 Laker and Lady Laker soccer players are left with no team, no games and a field that's yet to be built.
The Times Journal is a weekly newspaper issued on Thursdays. It was first published on October 13, 1949, by Andrew J. and Terry Norfleet.
P.O. Box 190
120 Wilson St.
Russell Springs KY 42642
Russell County News is a weekly newspaper issued on Saturdays, and is mailed free to every address in Russell County, Ky. It was first published on February 1, 1913.
404 Monument Square
Jamestown KY 42629