Mulling Over the Merge
combining school teams increases wins, decreases opportunities
We live in the land of 10,000 hyphenated school districts. Stanley-Boyd. Eleva-Strum. Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau. How would you feel about adding Eau Claire to that list? And I’m not talking about Immanuel Lutheran and Regis; rather, North and Memorial?
Perhaps you missed the proposal from several weeks ago: as a way to help the problematic financial situation facing the Eau Claire Area School District, the athletic programs of Memorial and North High Schools could be combined into one citywide program. Your reaction likely involves a rolling of the eyes and a response similar to “Seriously?” Seriously, this was considered a viable option to reduce the public school system’s financial burden.
Yet, despite the improbability that this plan will come to fruition, seeing such a “what if” scenario laid before my eyes was too strong of a creative temptation to avoid delving into the concept. What would the prep athletic scene in Eau Claire be like if North’s and Memorial’s athletic programs merged?
Since this column deals with the aesthetic realm of athletics, let’s get such questions out of the way first. What would the combined schools’ nickname be? Simple: Old Huskies. Sounds a bit odd, not particularly ferocious, but you tell me a better compromise between the current monikers. Team colors? Purple and Columbia blue. Again, maybe not the desired outcome.
As an amateur expert in uniform design, I can tell you that purple and Columbia blue work fine alone, but combined? Not sure if that’s ever been tried, and the combo does not scream intimidation. I took the added step of going to my photo editing software and finding the halfway point between purple and Columbia Blue. The color’s name? 565A8A; no formal name, just its HTML code. Imagine an announcer saying “Now taking the field, the Eau Claire Old Huskies, in 565A8A jerseys and white pants ...”
Perhaps we need to ponder a more captivating outcome of such a merger. Namely, potential dominance on the state athletic scene. Combining Memorial and North’s hockey programs could turn Eau Claire into a dynasty that may win a decade’s worth of championships.
A girls’ basketball team, putting together two historically high-quality squads, could be a regular contender for a Division 1 crown, and an Eau Claire boys’ team might make an appearance more often than nearly every decade. I could envision a baseball title or two. An Eau Claire soccer team in either gender would likely grab that elusive state championship, to say nothing of other sports like tennis and swimming. And a combined North-Memorial football team? I’ll resist the easy joke I could make after their performances in the 2008 season; we all know they’ll get better soon enough. Instead, I’ll point out how an Old Huskies unit would have a better chance than any Eau Claire public school has had in ages of playing a November game at Camp Randall.
Yet, there is a significant downside. Remember, Memorial and North athletes would be channeled into one varsity team instead of two; Eau Claire public school students would therefore have a 50 percent reduced chance of playing at the top level of their prep sport. True, the most talented players will play, regardless of which school they come from. However, many students of average athletic ability may find themselves as permanent benchwarmers, maybe never pushing beyond junior varsity.
Students deserve every opportunity to succeed through athletics. Reducing team spots by half would deprive many kids of their chance to play with the big boys and girls, and to learn deeper lessons in life. There is, after all, education found in athletics. Merging the Old Abes and the Huskies may save money and bring more titles. We may even come up with a catchy nickname. But we need to provide a chance for as many students as possible to be part of those titles. After all, a little more revenue and a full trophy case cannot compensate for a student’s dashed dream.