SWCS, Panama To Talk Sports Mergers

The most recent of potential sports merger talks include programs in the Southwestern Central School and Panama Central School districts.

A proposal to enter into discussions to combine its varsity wrestling and boys swimming programs with Panama was approved at the SWCS Board of Education meeting on Tuesday.

The proposal was presented to the board by Kevin Salisbury, athletic director at SWCS, who wanted to hear thoughts from the board members. According to Salisbury, a resolution was passed on Tuesday by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association changing the way schools are classified as the result of combining BEDS numbers.

“If we were to merge with Panama, as it used to sit, you took 100 percent of our BEDS numbers, 100 percent of their BEDS numbers, crunched them together and whatever classification you landed in, that’s where you played,” said Salisbury. “The proposal (to the NYSPHAA) was to, instead of taking 100 percent, take certain percentages based on that school’s classification. We just found out today that was voted on and passed.”

Salisbury said that, in the case of a combination, the larger district would still have 100 percent of its BEDS numbers considered while the smaller district would have a percentage looked at based on its current classification. According to Salisbury, the percentage per classification breakdown is as follows: 20 percent for Class D, 30 percent for Class C and B, 40 percent for Class A and 50 percent for Class AA. The BEDS classification numbers are determined by the state, which takes a snapshot of a district’s total enrollment every year on Veterans Day and calculates the total number of students in ninth through 11th grades.

It was because of the passage of this proposal that Salisbury says he was contacted by Chris Payne, Panama’s athletic director.

“When this proposal first came up, I was approached by Panama to see if we had any interest in merging or combining two of our sports programs,” he said. “There are a lot of questions involved with merging that, frankly, I don’t have answers to. A lot of negotiations that would go on between the two schools things that we would work through. But before I felt the need to even begin walking down that road, I wanted to see if this is something that (the board) would be interested in entertaining. I did speak with (Payne) this morning. (Panama) had a board meeting (on Monday) where he went and asked them the exact same thing, and they did approve to move forward and discuss.”

He explained: “The reason that (Panama is) approaching us about those two sports is because their numbers are down. I’m entertaining it because, in wrestling, our numbers are down. So I’m looking down the road and seeing that there’s a possibility that (eventually) we may not even have enough athletes to field teams in those sports.”

Salisbury also said that he is considering talks of merging the programs because they are large-school and small-school sports meaning that, even in the now traditional sense of combining BEDS numbers, the combined teams would remain in the same classifications rather than being bumped up.

After its approval, William Burk, vice president of the SWCS board, met the proposal with receptivity.

“My opinion is that we should get a subcommittee (from Southwestern) and a subcommittee (from Panama) and have a sit-down,” said Burk, who was the first to volunteer for this subcommittee.

Salisbury said that he would contact Panama today to inform them of the board’s decision, and suggested inquiring with other districts that have gone through the process about the advantages and disadvantages of a combined sports program.