I was not aware, and many people aren’t, the amount of money that it takes to fund a high school athletic program. One of the biggest surprises I encountered upon arriving as Wickenburg High School’s athletic director is the amount of money it takes to put on an athletic event. There are also many variables to consider when funding an athletic department. Some of those variables include athletic participation, attendance of fans, and cost of officials.

Juggling the budget of a high school athletic department is by far the most challenging part of my job. There are many factors that come into play when you consider how to fund 14 sports. Due to the consistent cuts in funding to education over many years, athletics funding has been dwindling down to a very minor piece of a school›s overall budget. That leaves athletic directors the job of being creative in how to provide equipment and field repairs for all 14 varsity and 10 junior varsity sports. One of the variables involved in athletic funding are athletic fees. Athletic fees are the cost a player must pay in order to participate in any given sport. At WHS the athletic fee is $75 per sport with a family cap and an individual player’s cap.

These athletic fees go entirely to pay for officials for athletic contests throughout the year. Tax credit donations to certain accounts (Athletics/Athletics no-preference) are used to help cover the costs for officials to our athletic association, the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA). Officials can cost the department anywhere from $350-$400 per evening depending on the sport. Attendance at our athletic events is another variable that is hard to predict. When teams are winning there is a lot of revenue generated from ticket sales, but when teams are not winning that revenue dwindles significantly. Also, WHS, along with other schools, do not charge admission for spring sports. This creates a financial set back on the athletic department as officials are still being paid, but there is no ticket revenue coming in. We also look at the number of athletic participants, and it is shown that athletic participation is steadily slowing down. When there are fewer athletes to pay athletic fees, there is less revenue to be used.

WUSD provides funding for coaches’ stipends, travel expenses, AIA dues ($7,000), and uniforms. We are lucky the district provides us with this funding. However, Wickenburg High School is responsible for providing the funding for those officials. When we look at the total cost of officials and their mileage for the entire year, WHS pays roughly $28,000 to $30,000 annually. That›s why, tax credit donations, sponsorships, ticket sales, and athletic fees are so crucial to maintaining and conducting the sports that we offer. Without those sources of revenue, some desperate measures would have to take place. These could include raising athletic fees, increasing ticket prices, and, inevitably, cutting athletic programs.

I chose to write this column because I feel like this community needs to know what it takes financially to run this athletic department. I feel like I need to convey to our community how important it is to keep athletics in our schools. I was an athlete in high school, and I believe in the benefits of being involved in a club or a sport while attending high school. I know the statistics back up higher graduation rates and how they are directly correlated to involvement in extracurricular activities while in high school.

I will conclude by saying it is important to the kids, the department and our coaches that community members attend events to support these young athletes. It is important to the kids, the department, and our coaches that community members reach out and volunteer or sponsor a sport. We have a dedicated group of coaches and kids, but more assistance is needed. A lot of us had the same experiences that benefited our lives in many ways while we were growing up; the athletes at WHS deserve to have those same memorable experiences.

Please make it a priority to attend Wickenburg Wranglers events – it would be greatly appreciated.

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