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Hockey co-op talk tabled

By Staff | Jul 23, 2010

The Rugby School Board last week tabled a request by the Rugby Amateur Hockey Association (RAHA) to enter a boys hockey co-op with Bottineau High School for the coming season, saying it was necessary to get more details on potential costs for the district as well as sort out other issues before making a decision.

School officials from both Rugby and Bottineau as well as members of the hockey associations from both towns met earlier this month about the possibility of a high school co-op.

From that discussion a few co-op options were proposed. One, Rugby would only pay for transportation costs for its participants to Bottineau for practices and games. The players would compete under Bottineau’s name and RHS would not receive any proceeds from the program.

A second option would have Rugby pay into the program based on its number of participants. Some games and practices potentially would be held in Rugby. Also, the co-op name would likely include both schools.

A third option would be a true 50-50 co-op arrangement where expenses and revenues are shared equally. The teams would play an equal number of games at both towns and practices would also be split. And the team would share the co-op name.

Ultimately, the RAHA would like to see the program shared equally, but at this time is open to other arrangements. The pressing issue is to find a team for its high school-aged participants for the coming season.

The RAHA has offered a high-school level hockey team that competes in the N.D. Amateur Hockey Association for more than two decades, but recently stated it doesn’t have enough players to field a team this year, and next year. As a result, at least eight high school-age players from Rugby are looking for a place to play, and the RAHA approached the school board about a co-op with Bottineau which offers high school-sanctioned hockey through the North Dakota High School Activities Association.

Jeff Lind, school superintendent, said reviewing the costs show the district would virtually contribute just as much if it simply paid for transportation costs, or paid based on the number of participants. However, no hard cost figures have been calculated.

Lind along with Scott Grochow, athletic director, plan to meet with Bottineau administrators early next month to review the potential costs as well as other details of a possible co-op.

The board posed a question of whether parents of the hockey players would be willing to transport them to and from Bottineau for practices and games and assume those travel expenses. Lind has reservations about that simply because there are no guarantees that arrangement will be followed.

Undoubtedly there would be an occasion when players would be forced to drive themselves to practices. That could open the district up to some potential liability, if there was an accident or other mishap involving a student driving to practice or a game, since the school is sponsoring the activity.

If the school is entering a co-op, than its in its best interest to transport the participants to practices and games in Bottineau, Lind believes.

The board also brought up concerns about Title IX implications with the addition of another boys sport. Title IX is a federal law which requires equal participation opportunities for both boys and girls athletics. Lind said it only becomes an issue, if someone makes it one.

Mark Hamilton, board member, asked if the district is currently within compliance of the Title IX law. Lind said based on the current athletics offered, and viewing cheerleading as a competitive activity, than a good case could be made the district is compliant. However, it’s not a black and white issue and often it takes a legal process to determine.

If boys hockey is added, the district would be sponsoring seven boys sports and five girls sports. Baseball is open to both boys and girls.

However, another issue to consider is whether compliance is based on the number of sports or the total number of participants.

Board members acknowledged this is a difficult decision. Entering into a hockey co-op would provide additional opportunities for student-athletes, but it comes at a significant expense to the district.

“It’s a hard call,’ said Susan Schmaltz, board member.

Fellow board members Chuck Volk and Cory Johnson also are torn, seeing both the pros and cons of the co-op.

The Bottineau School Board indicated last week it is open to further discussion on the issue. If Rugby’s board approves a co-op with Bottineau, it would likely be in place for three years.

A decision would need to be made before September. That is the deadline, so it can come before the NDHSAA.

The NDHSAA board of directors would ultimately have to OK the co-op for it to go into effect.

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