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Does success equal money in sports?

Posted: August 18, 2013 10:17 p.m.
Updated: August 18, 2013 10:17 p.m.

Previously succesful teams like Canyon football (above) consistently fill up the stands, while others don't draw as big of a crowd.

 

Today marks the second in a five-day series in which The Signal looks at the influence of money in our sports.

When Valencia head boys volleyball coach Kevin Kornegay walked into his first booster club meeting, he remembers seeing three faces staring back at him.

“Before we were successful, not a winning tradition, we had three (parents) show up. ‘You’re the president, you’re the secretary and you’re the treasurer,’” Kornegay said.

He was the team’s head coach from 1997-2001 and he took over again in 2012.

Along the way, Valencia won 12 league titles, four CIF titles and a national championship, and the booster program now features 30 parents eager to help the team’s success.

“Now we have this big churning machine,” Kornegay said. “We have people that have been in the program and we keep the machine rolling.”

That’s a common theme throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.

As money becomes harder and harder to come by, programs rely less and less on handouts from the district and Associated Student Bodies and instead fundraise more than ever. And the more successful a team is, the easier that fundraising seems to be.

“In the past few years, we’ve won league titles and our freshman numbers, we’ve had 70-75 kids trying out the past two or three years,” said West Ranch head boys basketball coach Shant Bicacki, whose team won back-to-back Foothill League titles. “Which is, as far as fundraising goes and having the commitment and participation, that’s a huge deal.”

Budgets

There’s no secret that money has been harder for schools to come by over the last five years with tightening state budgets.

And that’s had a trickle-down effect on local athletic programs.

Where the William S. Hart Union High School District paid for all team busing when West Ranch High School opened in 2004, nowadays, the funding has decreased dramatically, said longtime Wildcats Athletic Director Dody Garcia, who still serves as the Foothill League secretary.

“In 2007 or 2008, when all the economic crisis started going down, that was one of the big hits the district took was transportation,” Garcia said.

Now, that cost is split between the district and individual ASBs, and has become the main purpose of funding from the ASBs to the athletic programs.

“In years gone by, with the downturn in the economy, we haven’t been able to give as much money to (athletics),” said Jeff Albert, ASB President at Valencia. “We pay for a lot of buses. To send two buses to Hart is $800 approximately. Typically, a bus for an afternoon is $400, out of the valley is between $500-$600. That’s the biggest expense that I pay for and each sport has a limited amount of money they can spend on it.”

And as a result, teams have to get creative in order to raise the money necessary to compete.

Fundraising

Less money coming in means more money that needs to be raised by the athletic program.

Each school has a general athletic fund that is divided up to the individual teams, but the bulk of expenditures are up to the programs themselves.

The general fund benefits from ticket sales during football and basketball seasons, and coaches agree that success among those programs leads to more money overall for the department.

“Our senior night when we played against Hart this year, I remember looking through our gym and out the doors. There were people outside the gym watching,” Bicacki said. “I don’t know how many times that’s happened at other gyms, but based off sheer numbers, you can’t let anyone else in. I’m guessing you’re making more money.”

But there isn’t a single sport on any campus in the Santa Clarita Valley that can get by solely on their piece of the pie.

And that’s where teams get creative.

Some teams host tournaments, others sell advertisements and still others seek sponsors at an individual athlete level.

“For us, our big one is the tournament we put on that makes us money,” Kornegay said. “We put concessions at the game, that’s a good fundraiser. With success you get more people coming and you make more money at concessions.”

The West Ranch girls soccer program was $3,000 in the hole when head coach Jared White took over three years ago.

White took advantage of a district program that gives teams $500 in exchange for cleaning up stadiums after Friday night football games.

“You work with the janitorial staff, they provide trash bags and gloves and the girls pick up as much trash as they can and sweep up,” White said. “They hated it, but we were in desperate times. We needed a quick $500.

But fundraising can be more difficult when a team hasn’t had much success on the field.

The Golden Valley varsity football team is still looking for its first Foothill League victory in school history.

“Definitely,” said head coach Robert Fisher on whether or not success can help a program raise money. “If you’re not winning games the parents don’t think you can deliver what’s needed.”

But he cautioned that there are other factors that play a role, as well.

“I think a lot of it’s on the coach and the programs they put in place,” Fisher said.

Involvement

“Whenever you start to get a little success, now people say ‘Let’s get new jerseys, let’s look the part, let’s make sure everyone has the same warmups and same bags.’ Before it was, ‘We’re not doing OK or doing so well, what’s the point of looking professional or being organized?’” White said. “Now we’re doing OK and doing better. We get game-day shirts. They want to do game-day lunches. Money plays an important part in that.”

In his first season, White led the Wildcats to as high as No. 33 in the ESPN Top 50 and earned the program’s first postseason berth.

That success has helped lead the program out of the red and into the black.

“Whenever you start to win games you get more interested parties. You get more people at summer camp and that money goes into our account,” White said.

The excitement also spreads to parents, who are vital to the success of any high school program.

Parent volunteers run most of the off-the-field, day-to-day responsibilities for programs, and the more on-field success, the more parents tend to show up.

After Canyon baseball rebounded from a fifth-place finish in 2012 to win a co-Foothill League title in 2013, the interest level immediately spiked.

“So hot and cold. When you’re winning, so many things change. The whole attitude changes, the perspective changes,” said Canyon head baseball coach Adam Schulhofer. “You’re smiling a little bit more. When you’re struggling, it could be a perception, but it seemed like fewer people (showed up). They were good people, supportive people, but not willing to put in anymore time in the fundraising. So then it would fall on the back of the few dedicated people.”

It would seem that money isn’t impossible to come by for teams that aren’t enjoying success on the fields and courts. But it’s certainly a lot easier when championships are in the cards.

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