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Tuesday, Sep 19, 2017
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Decision near on lacrosse as a varsity sport

TAMPA - Hillsborough County school board members still have plenty of questions about adding lacrosse as a varsity support in a handful of high schools as early as January, but it appears they'll vote on the issue Tuesday. There are questions about finances and other club sports that might want to become varsity sports. There are even issues about gender equity and seeding grass fields so they don't become dust bowls. A committee made up of school board members, district officials and representatives of the lacrosse community has been meeting for months. The mission: find a way to add the sport with little or no cost to a cash-strapped school district. Lacrosse proponents have said they would pay nearly all of the costs associated with the sport, from equipment to scholarships for players who can't afford to play.
While board members said months ago they were looking to add the sport as a pilot pay-for-play system where the sport has to pay for itself, it has become apparent there are at least some "soft costs" that would be borne by the district. District officials say it would cost $2,400 per field per year for striping, and another $1,000 per field annually for seeding with rye grass. Other costs would be $500 to repair each field after the season. That doesn't sit well with some on the board. "I didn't realize we had that kind of money laying around," said Jack Lamb. Board member Doretha Edgecomb was worried about a proposal to start lacrosse out just at schools such as Plant, Durant, Freedom, Alonso, Steinbrenner, Newsome, Wharton and Robinson that already have established club programs. Two other schools – such as Jefferson and Tampa Bay Tech – would be added a year down the road, some have suggested. "I don't want this to be exclusive," Edgecomb said. "I don't want this to be country club." Several board members wondered about what appeared to them to be a push to get the issue done so soon. "Why this rush?" Lamb asked. "It's a major decision." "Why not work it out and start everybody next year?" Edgecomb asked. "We've been working on this a very long time," countered Jon Levy, one of the lacrosse enthusiasts who has been working diligently with the district to pull off the addition of the sport. "To us, it feels like an eternity." Board chairwoman Candy Olson cautioned that if public schools don't offer lacrosse as a varsity sport, students will find other places – and schools – to attend. "I don't want to lose students and parents who would be interested in this to private schools," she said. The board meeting Tuesday, at which a final vote is expected, is scheduled for 3 p.m. at district headquarters at 901 E. Kennedy Blvd.

rshaw@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7999

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