Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

April 25, 2013

Schools face uphill battle after washouts

By Josh Sigler
Tribune sportswriter

— Already this spring, Howard County has fallen victim to some of the worst flooding ever seen in these parts.

The Wildcat Creek reached its highest flood level on record Friday, leaving some 200 houses damaged in and around Kokomo.

The spring has come in like a lion. Spring sports athletes, coaches and administrators can only hope it goes out like a lamb, beginning today.

Mother Nature has been an equal opportunity mayhem producer for all spring sports at all of the county’s high schools, with anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of teams’ total games and matches already being canceled simply because athletic directors are running out of days to reschedule events.

“I don’t ever remember this much water for so long,” said Eastern athletic director Brad Wilson. With 16 years as AD at Eastern, Wilson is the county’s longest-tenured athletic administrator. “You need a kayak to get from first to second base on our baseball field.”

The Comets softball team has played six games while the baseball squad just finished up its eighth game Wednesday night after rain halted a game with Peru in the sixth inning Tuesday. Eastern’s middle school track team has been able to only participate in one meet to this point.

Wilson speculated that his teams have lost half of their events, if not more. Snow halted any chance of getting an event or two in before spring break, and since they’ve been back from break, entire days’ worth of events have been wiped out due to rain more days than not, leaving weeks worth of uncontested events in its wake.

“We were able to put those things back on the schedule, but now it won’t stop raining and we’re losing events,” Wilson said. “Our athletic schedule looks like my first freshman English paper from college. I hope I don’t send a team to play somewhere where there’s no game. It’s crazy.”

Further complicating the rescheduling process is the Mid-Indiana Conference bylaws, which state league games have to be rescheduled for the following day should they get rained out. As a result, non-conference games are getting the axe in favor of conference games.

Western’s softball team has two open dates as a result, while the Panthers baseball team has four open dates.

“That’s with numerous things rescheduled already and assuming we can play every day to make up the rescheduled events,” Western AD Ryan Berryman said. “We’re getting to the point where we’re into the conference portion of our seasons, and with our bylaws, that bumps off non-conference games. And then you’re at the mercy of other schools’ schedules.”

With no events to attract spectators to the gate, athletic department budgets have been put under a strain. Berryman estimated his department stands to lose between $3,000 to $4,000 if current trends continue.

“And this is after we lost a lot of money in the fall because it rained nearly every Friday night,” he said. “It puts a kink in things.”

Northwestern has arguably been hit the hardest schedule-wise.

As of Wednesday, the athletic department has had to postpone or cancel 66 total events this spring. The baseball team has only played three games and the softball team four, when both should have played upwards of 14 by now, according to AD Dan Armstrong.

The Northwestern Relays track and field meet was canceled outright Wednesday, marking the first time in 49 years that the event won’t be contested. With a number of schools coming to Northwestern to compete, finding an open date where all programs could alter their respective schedules and return to Northwestern later in the season is virtually impossible.

“Track and field is one of the few things in the spring that makes revenue,” Armstrong said. “We’ve had to postpone the Northwestern Relays before but never had to cancel it. There’s just no place left to put things. All we can do is put it on the schedule and then move them [as more postponements happen]. It’s to a point where you just have to laugh about it because it’s so ridiculous. It’s been a strain because you don’t have any revenue coming in to this point, and that makes it tough due to the money already spent to get ready for the spring seasons.”

Armstrong noted his department has athletes that have been practicing since mid-March and are yet to play a contest. The middle school track and baseball teams are yet to get an event in.

The girls track sectional is set for May 14, with some coaches receiving their sectional roster forms already. If the team gets in every meet left on the schedule, Northwestern’s squad will have competed in just six events by the time the postseason rolls around.

“I feel bad for the kids,” Armstrong said. “Our only option is just to move them. When the weather does get better it’ll put a great strain on them because they’ll be playing every day. We’re just out of time. It’s a tough thing. I don’t know how to change it. It’s just bad. Our seniors are losing a large chunk of their seasons. Hopefully May will be better than April.”

Some relief, even if temporary, may be in sight. According to Weatherbug.com, calculable precipitation is not expected through the weekend and into the early part of next week.