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Posted on Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 5:40 a.m.

Now more than ever, students and families are paying to participate in high school sports

By Kyle Austin


Huron High School basketball players line up before a game against Bedford last spring.

Courtney Sacco | file

Dottie Davis first came to Huron High School as a coach in 1979 and quickly found herself with a problem.

The budget for her softball team was $5,000, and the young coach had no idea how to spend it.

“I had so much money,” Davis said. “I’m like ‘What do I do?’”

More than three decades later, Davis has moved from the dugout to the athletic director’s office. None of the coaches in her charge have the same problem she did.

The days of $5,000 team budgets for equipment, uniforms and other expenses have been gone for two decades, Davis said, and today's coaches are left to mostly build their own budgets through fundraising and team fees.


Huron Athletic Director Dotti Davis, right, listens as Skyline Athletic Director John Young talks about the proposed athletic funding cuts during the planning committee meeting for Ann Arbor Public Schools on July 13, 2011.

Angela Cesare | file

Ann Arbor Public Schools has cut its athletic budget by around $1.8 million in recent years, to a current level of around $3 million.

While AAPS has ensured that its expansive athletic offerings haven’t diminished and its participation levels remain high, the principal result has been more costs being transferred from the district to parents, along with worries about what future athletic cuts could mean for the district.

In the last five years, many high school athletes and their families have seen their dues go up by hundreds of dollars, so that they're now paying upwards of $1,000 for some sports like crew and hockey. This fall, it will cost more than $500 to play high school football in Ann Arbor.

In June, the district approved an increase in its pay-to-participate fee to a flat rate of $250 regardless of the amount of sports one plays. This is up from $150 for the first sport and $75 for the second. Athletes also pay a $30 insurance fee. Middle school athletes pay $150 to participate in sports, up from $50.

But for most families, that’s only part of the burden in what’s become a changing financial athletic landscape.

“It’s just an unfortunate reality of where we’re at,” Pioneer athletic director Eve Claar said.

Download: 2011-12 AAPS Athletic Budget (PDF) | 2012-13 AAPS Athletic Budget (PDF)

Team fees


The pay-to-participate costs for every school district in Washtenaw County, plus other schools in the Southeastern Conference.

When AAPS first implemented its pay-to-participate fee in 2010 and increased it this spring, the decision was made after extensive research, public input and school board debate.

But in reality, students have been paying to play sports for much longer than that.

Nearly every AAPS player pays a team fee to their team’s booster club at the beginning of every season. That money can go to cover equipment, uniforms, end-of-year banquets and awards, and other things a team deems necessary but can’t be funded by the athletic department.

Athletic directors say those fees differ by sport and school, and can change year-to-year depending on costs and how much fundraising the teams have done to offset those costs.

They can range anywhere from $25 for sports like track, where equipment needs are minimal, to $800 or more for sports like crew and ice hockey, where equipment and off-campus facility rentals are pricey.

And for golf and ice hockey, those numbers could be increasing this year, as the 2013-14 budget eliminates athletic department funds for off-campus facility rentals. Pioneer golf coach Steve Rodriguez said he’s unsure how much of that will be transferred to students and their families.

“It doesn’t feel good, I tell you that,” Rodriguez said.

Athletic directors have guidelines for those fees and monitor them to ensure they are affordable and not excluding athletes from participating. But the responsibility for setting that fee falls largely into the hands of the team’s parents and coaches.

Thumbnail image for 011913_Pioneer_vs.jpeg

Sports like ice hockey will see increased fees this year because they don't use on-campus facilities.

“It becomes much more challenging for the athletic director to convey those policies, and then to have exclusive supervision over those groups when kids and families transition in and out of your program every four years,” said former Pioneer athletic director Lorin Cartwright, who retired last year after 32 years at the school, the last 17 as athletic director.

“The athletic director can pretty well have their hands full just in dealing with booster clubs.”

Ann Arbor booster clubs are registered as non-profits and are audited yearly by an outside firm. Davis said that policy was enacted after a Chelsea woman, Kimberly Knight, was found to have embezzled nearly $1 million from the Ann Arbor Area Hockey Association from 2005-07.


When they’re not competing on the fields, the courts or in the pools, you can find the area’s high school athletes doing a wide range of fundraising activities, in-season and out.

Some teams go the traditional route of selling concessions during Michigan football games or picking up bottles from parking lots after they end, and selling value cards that get buyers discounts at various local establishments. Increasingly, though, teams are being forced to think outside of the box, like at Skyline where a number of teams have counted chips at the poker room at the Roundtree Bar and Grill in Ypsilanti, where half the rake goes to a local charity every night.


Pioneer Big Booster Club member Jim Gallagher installs cushions on seats at Michigan Stadium prior to the Wolverines' game vs. Central Michigan.

Patrick Record |

It’s all in the name of fundraising to cover the increased high school sports expenses.

For students, that means spending an increasing amount of time in season and out making sure their program has enough money. For coaches, that means organizing those fundraisers and keeping track of all the money raised.

“Fifty percent of their job is fundraising,” Davis said of coaches. “Back in the day, we used to get to coach.”

Chris Morgan, who coaches boys and girls soccer at Skyline, said when he first started coaching at Pioneer 24 years ago his team would do one fundraiser per year and participation was often optional.

Now, each of his teams are doing doing four or five fundraisers per year, with a goal of raising $5,000 to $10,000 per season. The money goes toward uniforms, basic equipment and transportation.

“The role of the coach and the role of the program in that financial realm has changed dramatically,” Morgan said.

Other programs have been able to do their fundraising without relying as heavily on students. Rodriguez said his program has been able to cover most of its costs, outside of uniforms, by relying largely on donations from the program’s large alumni base. That will change dramatically when the greens fees stipend is eliminated from his budget.

“It’s going to have to be increased, that’s for sure,” Rodriguez said. “We’re going to have to lean on those former players and those former parent groups a lot heavier than we’ve ever had to in the past.”


Families with multiple high schoolers playing multiple sports could see their bills climb into the thousands, between pay-to-participate and team fees. For some, that amount can post a hardship. Saline has a family cap of $700, as does Dexter, but AAPS has no such policy.

The district has gone to great lengths to make sure there are options for those families. Scholarships are available to cover the pay-to-participate fees up to 100 percent. Families may request a waiver for the pay-to-participate fee by providing one or more of the following: SNAP/Food Stamps, Medicaid or Free and Reduced Lunch eligibility.

Coaches say they also make sure finances don’t prevent someone from participating. Students can often do extra fundraising to lower their out-of-pocket costs, and booster clubs also have scholarship funds to help cover the costs.

Yet concerns remain about whether students eligible for the programs take advantage of them.

“My biggest concern always has been those kids you don’t know that won’t come forward and say ‘I can’t afford it,’” Claar said. “That troubles me. To not even have the opportunity to help a kid and let them know there’s other avenues.”


The Pioneer football team takes to the field before a 2012 game.

Joseph Tobianski | file

First-year Pioneer football coach Jari Brown said much work is done to get the message out and help families who may not qualify for school aid, but who still need help.

"Not everybody can pay that and I think that sometimes people are a little embarrassed or whatever, so what we try to do... if someone needs any help, (our booster club does) a good job of getting those guys taken care of," Brown said. "Our thing is we want to encourage kids to play and say you know what, 'If you don’t have the means to do it, we have the resources to help you out."

Brown said there's still room for improvement.

"We spend time in the offseason and I spend time during school, during the year trying to get that message across, but one of those things is we need to find a better way to communicate that information," Brown said.

The discrepancies in fee levels between districts has also raised concerns about whether students would transfer districts to pay lower fees, but athletic directors say multiple barriers are in place to prevent that. Most districts require residency to enroll, and the MHSAA requires students who transfer without a change in address to sit out for a semester. That will increase to an entire year in 2014.

Cartwright, though, said she knows of students who have enrolled in districts specifically because of pay-to-participate fees. And if districts start losing students -- and the thousands in state funding their enrollment brings -- the budget situation changes.

“There’s a fine line there,” Cartwright said. “And I know that there are kids who have already said ‘I don’t want to play in Ann Arbor Public Schools, and I’m going to go someplace like Ypsilanti.’"

“When you start to look at those kinds of things, why would I continue to want to stay when I can go to an open district and pay nothing to play the same sport?”

Unfunded sports


The Skyline lacrosse team during halftime of an April game.

Daniel Brenner | file

In the first few waves of AAPS budget reductions, the district was able to cut line items like part-time secretaries, equipment and travel budgets to keep the changes from directly affecting students.

But in 2011, all of those options had been exhausted. So part of the round of budget cuts included removing athletic department funding for lacrosse, bowling, freshman girls basketball and freshman baseball.

Students in unfunded sports still wear their school uniforms, earn varsity letters and compete for state championships. The only difference is where the money for their sport is coming from.

“From a kid’s point of view, we want it to remain the same,” Skyline athletic director John Young said. “We don’t want there to be any barriers to you playing because all of a sudden we’ve got to charge money. Is there going to be a different perspective from the parents’ viewpoint? Absolutely. It’s going to cost me more money.”

For one of AAPS’s new unfunded programs, Pioneer boys lacrosse, unfunding resulted in an extra $15,000 in coach’s salaries, officials’ fees and transportation. For the athletes, the total cost stayed the same: the booster club fees went up, but the pay-to-participate fees went away.

But booster club president Alan Matney said the team had a well-organized booster club that had planned for the possibility of being unfunded. He said he could see the financial situation becoming tougher in future years. Pioneer girls lacrosse coach Zachary Maghes took a systematic approach to dealing with losing funding as well. While many parents were asking for blood, Maghes asked for time and the lacrosse program has persevered.

“I think the real financial burden comes in years three through five,” Matney said.

While district participation numbers overall have held steady, Young said he’s seen a slight dip in girls sports in the first year of being unfunded. It’s something he will continue to monitor.

“That is one of the areas that we kept an eye on from the day we started all of this, making sure that the girls hold their own, making sure there’s opportunities for the girls, making sure we’re not losing girls because of it,” Young said. “Not that we don’t want to lose the guys either, but we want to make sure we’re in line with what we’re supposed to be doing (for Title IX compliance) and that we’re responsible for everybody.”

Across Washtenaw County

Whether it’s in school or not, the cost to play youth sports has increased dramatically in recent years. For sports that include out-of-school offseason teams, like soccer, the cost to participate is often in the thousands.


Skyline soccer coach Chris Morgan talks to his team during a game this spring.

Courtney Sacco | file

“$250 is a drop in the bucket,” Morgan said of youth soccer costs.

Costs for the Ann Arbor United Soccer Club’s highest level are between $1,200 and $1,800, not including travel costs, according to the organization’s web site. Costs to play for the U18 Michigan Wolves Academy will be $1,600 for 2013-14, not including travel costs. Boys travel hockey at the Ann Arbor Area Hockey Association costs between $1,760 to $2,204 for a season according to figures provided by the organization.

Nearly every school district in Washtenaw County and the state is grappling with how to deal with decreasing state funds, and how much of those funds to devote to athletics. And they’re coming to different conclusions.

Chelsea eliminated its pay-to-participate fees last summer, and the newly formed Ypsilanti Community Schools will not charge a pay-to-participate fee. Dexter, meanwhile, recently raised its pay-to-participate fees to $250 for a first sport, $150 for second and $100 for the third. Saline voted to freeze its rate at $325 to participate in any number of sports.

Ann Arbor took the rates from surrounding districts into account when settling on its pay-to-participate fee for this year -- and even though it costs more than ever to be a high school athlete, AAPS still says it’s one of the cheapest tickets in town.

“If you look at what other districts are doing, we’re still a bargain,” Young said.

Kyle Austin covers sports for He can be reached at or 734-623-2535. Follow him on Twitter @KAustin_AA.



Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 7:21 p.m.

I am sorry, but having to pay to participate in a sanctioned activity at a public school does not make sense. For many kids an athletic scholarship may be their only avenue into college. Limiting these activities only to those who can afford them does not make sense. We should be looking at how we do the sports, can we accomplish the same results and spend less. Do we need high end artificial turf, can we get by without expensive lighting. Maybe we would have to play on Saturday mornings on the grass. Keep the sports safe, fun and let everyone who wants to play. After all these are public schools.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 8:18 p.m.

There was a whole section on hardships in the article. Kids in need will get to play.

harry b

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 5:13 p.m.

If you want your kid to play just pay it. Its not like you haven't paid for the last 10-15 years for them to play their sport. If they good enough to make the high school team, these parents have already shelled out big money for their kid to get that good. What's three more years of paying to play?


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 3:32 p.m.

How about the policy that you pay to play really means you pay to tryout. If your child decides they don't want to play after tryouts, you don't get a refund. They keep your $250 and then they will bring up another kid to fill that spot and get double the money for the same spot on the team. I personally find that particular piece a scam with AAPS.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 9:22 p.m.

How about the parenting theory that if you start something, you follow though and finish it? If your kid wants to "maybe" try something, but not commit to it, try Rec and Ed. Go play soccer at the park. Varsity sports aren't for quitters.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 8:16 p.m.

It's a tough life lesson, but when you want to quit after you have committed, you often don't get your money back.

Kyle Austin

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 4:12 p.m.

AAPS officials always refer to it as "pay to participate" instead of "pay to play." The distinction is that they don't want athletes and families to think that writing a check guarantees playing time. It's true that for the cut sports, athletes who don't make the team don't pay the fee, but there are also athletes who are going to pay the fee and see little playing time.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 4:07 p.m.

If your child does not make the team after tryouts, you do not have to pay the $250. You do, however, have to pay the $30 insurance fee regardless of whether your child makes the team or not.

Basic Bob

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 3:56 p.m.

Huron women's soccer collected fees after tryouts, only from the selected players.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 2:57 p.m.

The correct fees for Tecumseh High School is $165 for the full year, regardless of how many sports played.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 11:30 a.m.

As PineyWoods says, why should our tax dollars go to athletics, at all? With the new laws, students are no longer required to attend schools in the same district in which they live. So I should pay my property tax millage for the board of educ in AA (AAPS) and then have any number of students decide they want to go to Eastwest NorthSouthington High School? MY Ann Arbor taxes being taken to EWNS HS? Of course the student will tell you - "EWNS HS has a much better contact backgammon team and I can get a scholarship if I go there". PEH! Baloney! BOLLOCKS!! Let the jocks and their families pay to play, go to school where they want, and cut my property taxes accordingly. And if the Quiz Bowl kids get a budget, cut that too. With graduation rates in the 70% range, why is this even an issue? Those same 30% that can't pass HS classes should be happy to know - you need a HS Diploma to get into the military.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 8:14 p.m.

Actually, your school taxes all leave AA and go to Lansing where they donate a large amount of your money to other districts and send AA back much less than we originally paid. This is called Prop A.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 8:10 a.m.

So? What's the Problem? A bunch of underperforming jocks seeking a College Scholarship. Why should we support these Dudes with our tax dollars?

harry b

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 5:16 p.m.

I don't know about you but when I went to high school 30 years ago Friday night football game was the place to be. It would have really sucked not to have that memory.

Laura Jones

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 2:38 a.m.

I find it equally as troubling that the only sports being available are competitive pay to play. There is a majority of the student body who will not be talented enough to make a team and pay to play. These very expensive facilities that we have paid for here in Dexter are used for a very small percent of the kids the schools serves. What about the rest of the student population? Once our kids reach a certain age, they stop all sports if they are not at the top of the pack. What a waste. In an era where we have sedentary overweight kids we should be offering programs for ALL kids to play intramural or B, C or D squads with other schools. If more people played and paid, the amount should be less for everyone. We have a child who had the opportunity to play in a summer camp this year and had the time of their life. There is little chance to make a competitive team so there will not be a way to keep the great benefits going for the kid - self esteem, exercising, teamwork. Such a shame. It's so frustrating as a parent and as a taxpayer.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 4:26 a.m.

Is there any reason you do not enroll your child in a Rec and Ed, non competitive sport? The cost is lower, and everyone is guaranteed to play. Also, there are many teams in AA, such as Track, that do not make cuts, and would welcome more participants. Not sure what they have available in Dexter, but I know that kids from Dexter and Chelsea come to AA for Rec and Ed sports.

Pete Cunningham

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 4:16 a.m.

You don't need to be "talented" to play a high school sport. Sports available at all three AAPS schools in the fall that I know for a fact do not have cuts: boys and girls cross country, football, girls golf, girls swimming and diving. In the winter: boys and girls bowling, boys swimming and diving, wrestling. In the spring: boys golf, boys and girls track and field. There are probably others, but those are sports I know don't cut a soul. If a kid wants to to play a sport in high school, "talent" is not a requirement.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 1:01 a.m.

Those of us who paid 100% of the costs of our kids' extracurriculars because they weren't sponsored by the school district are saying "Hooray!"


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 3:07 p.m.

There are some, perhaps many, students who have parents that can't afford club or school sports. This contributes to greater inequality in this country.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 9:44 p.m.

Ours wanted to do the ice skating team but when we were told the cost I realized one thing. I could double ice time for her coach and get her bettered for competitions outside of the varsity sport. This is so sad because this is something she really wanted to do but realizes having fun with a team is good but spending that money to get better in her sport with her coach is better. Eventually the price will cap everyone out of this. Too bad money talks in a day and age when children are spending more time on the computer then on the field. This also includes laid off PE teachers as well.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 5:23 p.m.

Correction. It is for our childs coach and ice it is half this. But yes, for the varsity sport? Ice time, coaching and everything else is included in this fee. I can get this stuff cheaper. Sorry but they locked me out of this one.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 5:20 p.m.

I was told almost $1000. This is about what it is for hockey. I was also told it could be as less as $700. This is is split into three months. But who has $350 to spend a month? The coaching fees and ice time are half this if at best.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 12:09 p.m.

What is the cost for a figure skating team at one of the HS? I'm curious, especially compared to hockey and golf. I'm assuming there are ice costs.

Kyle Austin

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 11:46 a.m.

That's interesting jns131. One of the themes of this is that while school sports have gotten more expensive, they still cost less than their club alternatives, but apparently that's not true for every sport.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 9:18 p.m.

I don't think we should ever spend ANY money on competition teams for public schools. I understand and completely support both gym classes (should be mandatory for all able) and intramural club sports. But why are these expensive, travelling high school-based teams necessary? Couldn't we better use what money there is from these overly-expensive programs to support cheaper intramural programs, academics, technology and infrastructure, and (gasp!) non-athletic extracurricular activities? What would be lost?


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 12:07 p.m.

TTBO - According to the NCAA, less than 2% of high school athletes ever receive ANY scholarship money related to their sport. And less than 0.1% of high school athletes get even a single year of "full tuition, room & board" scholarship that covers much of the cost of college for playing a major sport (football or basketball) AAPS hasn't had even one student win one of those full scholarships in more than a decade. The return on our "investment" in competitive sports is just not there, because for the most part, colleges don't give athletic scholarships for sports like soccer and ice hockey to kids from public high school teams, but to the ones who play in the ultra-elite traveling leagues.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 12:38 a.m.

What would be lost, you ask? Dozens, if not hundreds of students for one thing, who would flee AAPS to other districts with competitive sports programs. Several of my neighbors whose kids went to Emerson and Greenhills for elementary and middle school, specifically chose to send their kids to public high school so they could have a competitive, Division 1 sports experience. Even many charter schools are trying to beef up their sports programs to attract students. Parents will continue to foot the bill for increased costs of sports programs, but it will mean some kids will not participate for the reasons addressed in this article. I also see a future where corporate sponsorship or contributions from wealthy alumni will be sought to contribute to individual sports. programs at schools.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 10:50 p.m.

I was a high school athlete. It kept me disciplined and focused and I have no doubt that it was part of my straight A average. To me, it was no different than being part of the band, school newspaper, or the many other non-traditional classes out there. Funding decisions are really hard, and I get the inclination to go after athletics, but there's a place for athletics, and they do a world of good for lots of kids, on and off the field.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 10:13 p.m.

How many kids would never go to college if (gasp) there were no athletic scholarships? Look at all of the college athletics - this is a college town. Do you think they take some kid who has only had soccer in PE class, for example? Many club sports are no longer supported by the district.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 8:41 p.m.

A couple thoughts. First, since the insurance fee is mandatory, the Ann Arbor fee is really $280. Second, for all those thinking that the $100 fee for 7th hour was so inconsequential, this is a great example of how quickly a small amount goes up. Lastly, I would absolutely love to see a list of sports offered, especially which sports offer freshman teams. I was shocked to hear there was freshman football, for example, but not freshman teams for other sports. And do all sports get an equal budget? If not, why not? I've never seen this info in the budgets. Some more detailed info would be great.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 10:05 p.m.

@CLX For more athletic sports detail check the AAPS website under 2012-13 budget info. On pages 59-61, the three high school income and expenses per sport are outlined. However, no detail is available after that. That's the lack of transparency others often refer to as incomplete.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 8:57 p.m.

CLX - If you want a rough idea of the differences in the spending by sports in AAPS, get the teacher's contract off the website and look at the section on "points" in the contract, then count the number of points and positions by sport. There are some sports that get a lot of coaching staff and some that get almost none.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 7:14 p.m.



Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 6:04 p.m.

Schools within the same district do not need separate AD's. One athletic director should be sufficient to oversee all schools in the district. Quit complaining about lack of funds when we have too much administrative overhead wasting money.

Basic Bob

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 3:51 p.m.

huron and pioneer field not only fewer players but fewer teams since skyline opened, since they eliminated freshman teams. it would be just as easy for one a.d. to call saline and set up 6 games at once. or 18 games with plymouth canton schools.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 1:39 a.m.

@DonBee You're make a good point. I'm not attempting to justify their salary, just trying to get the facts correct. PHS and HHS ADs are paid 2 times what the Skyline AD is making. Also, their salaries didn't decrease as the school athlete participation levels declined due to Skyline HS being added. Another case of AAPS paying more for less.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 11:15 p.m.

M. Haney - All of the "instructors" they oversee at those schools are coaches or PE instructors. Some of the coaches teach health because there are not enough PE classes to go around.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 9:58 p.m.

@DonBee The ADs for Huron and Pioneer have have Asst. Principal responsibilities that include evaluating and overseeing instructors. For Huron it includes physical education and health (from Huron Website) I would presume PHS is about the same but could not locate anything on their website. Skyline AD is a supervisory position for only the athletic department. He is paid much less that Huron and PHS.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 8:55 p.m.

TTBO - Nope, sorry, they are members of the Ann Arbor Administrator's Association, which is why the title. The title does not indicate they have other duties. Rather their union requires the title.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 8:04 p.m.

I believe that both if the ADs for Huron and Pioneer are also assistant principals, which I'm assuming means that they have other responsibilities.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 5:14 p.m.

A couple of incorrect facts in this article. 1. "Nearly every AAPS player pays a team fee to their team's booster club at the beginning of every season. " The fees are required by the team, not by the Booster Club. The Booster Club is merely a group treasurer for all high school teams to insure the funds are handled and accounted for properly. Any fee collected by a team can be spent as the coach deems necessary. The Booster Club does not regulate how to spend a team's funds. 2. "Ann Arbor booster clubs are registered as non-profits and are audited yearly by an outside firm." There are registered 501C3 non-profits but audits are not done by outside firms. The Booster Clubs treasurers adhere to generally accepted accounting practices but there is no outside audit firm which comes in and goes over the books.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 1:41 a.m.

@tosviol8or. What can I say? It was bad grammar at its best.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 12:57 a.m.

Incorrect fact? Is that sort of like a fatal cure?


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 8:03 p.m.

Some Skyline teams, such as wrestling, do not have parent boards or boosters, so only the coach makes decisions, like setting fees, and making purchases.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 7:59 p.m.

The player's fees are determined solely by the head coach and parents. Perhaps with some input by the ADs. They may use historical info gathered by the Booster Club from the previous year's team income and expenses as a guideline. Booster Clubs are merely guardians of the funds. The Booster Club pays on any invoice submitted to them by the coach or team parent. Most fundraisers are cash based. The Booster Clubs may use a firm for filing tax returns but are not CPA audited. I doubt the Club's treasurers are even bonded. It costs too much money.

Jim Mulchay

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 7:49 p.m.

Pioneer has (or had?) two levels of booster clubs - a "big" booster club that operates for all sports - and many (most) sports have their own "sport specific" booster club. The "sport specific" boosters are (or were) independent from the "big" boosters. In the past the "sport" booster club was the one collecting the "extra" money, the school district collecting the "pay-to-play" money and the "big" boosters just trying to fund-raise. Huron - at one time - had just a single school athletic booster club so things were centralized (and probably much easier to review); Skyline? I'd think they would follow the Huron model;

Kyle Austin

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 6:30 p.m.

Coaches and administrators told me that coaches work with parents and the booster club to set the fee, which is then managed by the booster club. To your second point, I'm not sure about every sport's individual booster club, but it was my understanding that at least the big booster club at every school is audited.

Hal Dotson

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 4:01 p.m.

Great article, but it's Sunday where are the scores from Friday nights high school games? just sayin'

Kyle Austin

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 6:27 p.m.

Hal, they're right here:


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 3:26 p.m.

I would gladly pay fifty bucks each year to never be asked to buy some crappy coupon or candle and it could all go to kids sports. Time for fundraisers to become a thing of the past.

Get over it

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 3:52 p.m.

I would say the same about our gover. And all it's handouts when 40% of us have to pay for 60% and growing


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 3:24 p.m.

We have one of the greatest collegiate athletic programs in the country at our doorstep. How much money does the football program pull in on home game days? $5,000,000 per game, $7,000,000? (I continue to be shocked at the price of tickets.) It would be a drop in the bucket of UM's athletic budget to donate what would be considered significant amounts to Washtenaw County schools' athletic programs. Support the athletic legacy of the area by paying forward UM's success to rising high school athletes. Instead, while $100,000,000 is donated to UM athletics, and Mr. Brandon is one of the happiest college ADs in the country, we parents of high school athletes are asked over and over to give more so our kids can participate in high school sports. If feels like we are being bled dry. But we do it because we love our kids and are thrilled by watching them succeed, build friendships and turn into responsible young adults. How about stepping up Mr. Brandon?


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 9:48 p.m.

I just read an article where fans who go see these football games or basketball games or whatever games are finding themselves more and more shut out by cost. The higher the costs the more the fans will be unable to afford anything except to stay home and watch the game. Which is what we do now.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 7:41 p.m.

They could just donate to AA public schools since we pay for a number of expenses related to having them here..............Have you ever seen the size of their endowment?

Kyle Austin

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 6:26 p.m.

I believe Dave Brandon recently said it's around 1.3 million per home game. A large part of that revenue does go towards supporting sports -- the non-revenue sports at Michigan.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 4:06 p.m.

That money comes from people, not Dave Brandon, don't make him raise prices even more!

Kevin McNulty

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 3:21 p.m.

I would like to add that the Dexter football team goes door to door every year selling discount cards loaded with discounts from local restaurants, maybe some businesses. For $20 it is a great deal if you use the card for all the discounts, you get more than your money back. If you don't use it it is still a great way to donate to the team. And the young men who come to my door have always been polite and extremely personable. I recommend this to other schools if they are not doing it already.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 7:58 p.m.

Ann Arbor as been selling cards for years.

Jim Mulchay

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 2:23 p.m.

Here is a Chelsea Standard article on the debate in Chelsea bout dropping pay-to-play - - Ann referenced this article at the time; Some schools used to (and still may) include a 'season pass" for either the athlete or the family as part of the "pay-to-play" package; I doubt that it will ever be available, but it might be enlightening to see the total (school + booster) finances of the sports; Not part of this article is transportation - cut or reduced in many districts for sports - meaning many athletes are getting to away events in carpools, on their own or who knows how. I have been led to believe that this is not a liability issue for school districts - but hopefully the legal issue never arise;


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 9:51 p.m.

Most times it is parents who have a parent who can drive some of the students to the games and back. Or the parents who get out at 5 will drive to where ever town and pick their children up. Quite frankly I am glad ours decided against the varsity this year. It would be more towards gas then towards the sport itself. Especially with a new driver to boot.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 4:08 p.m.

You bring up a good point Jim. Bus transportation has been virtually eliminated in the AAPS sports my kids participate in. Kids are discouraged from driving themselves but there doesn't seem to be any official ban. I don't really see it as a liability issue...if kids can drive themselves to school, why not drive themselves to games? However, I don't want my kids driving to the distant towns in our athletic conference.. Monroe, Adrian, Bedford, Tecumseh. But realistically, how many parents can leave work early enough to transport teams to get to their games, some as early as 4 pm?

dading dont delete me bro

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 1:38 p.m.

have you paid for any 'outside' travel sports? school fees are a lot le$$.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 4:57 p.m.

Not necessarily. Between the booster club fees and fundraisers, pay-to-play fees, car pooling, etc. club sports such sports as hockey, soccer, golf or equestrian might be less expensive in an "out of school" league. You have to get into Olympic-level coaching fees before private coaches in most sports cost as much as the pay plus benefits for our public school teachers.

dading dont delete me bro

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

ypsilanti is $0 ?!? didn't that district just merge because of budgets?

Kyle Austin

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 1:47 p.m.

I know it came up during the planning that Ypsilanti has a higher percentage of kids on free or reduced lunch, so revenue would be relatively small. And the new district is already struggling with participation -- it has canceled cross country and girls golf -- so I'm sure pay to play would have hurt that even more.

Nick Danger

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 1:25 p.m.

Look,In Dexter I have seen the boys basketball coach keep the starters in the entire game when up by as much as 30 points.He lets his bench in the last minute,which is humulating . Is this fair?Ask those players who have paid their money,attended every practice and worked hard and never see the court

Claude Kershner

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 1:45 p.m.

That's a coaching problem/athletic director discussion for that particular team. Mandating playing time as a consequence of pay to play for ALL sports, as you suggested earlier, would be a case of the tail wagging the dog.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

Eliminate sports in schools and revert to the fundamental role of education and it gets simple. If you want sports do it outside school, but quit cluttering up the school budget and detracting from education.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 9:10 p.m.

Until the extra PE credit requirement was dropped this year, athletes could get a waiver for the second PE credit or playing a sport. It wasn't well advertised.

Life is good in Ann Arbor

Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 4:03 p.m.

If you take that approach, how about allowing students to test out of PE?. Why should accomplished athletes who play club sports have to spend a semester in a PE class that could be used for academics? Its a waste of time as are most of the other non required PE classes.


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 2:52 p.m.

jns131 - PE is required by the State of Michigan to graduate. What was eliminated was the extra .5 credit graduation AAPS requirement for an additional PE class. Under the current budget "crisis", I believe that was a smart financial decision.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 9:54 p.m.

It already happened with PE. Ours has to go outside to get a certain accreditation to get a job next summer. Kind of sucks when you plan on one thing and you end up paying anyways for it. PE is done from what I hear on the high school level. The music dept almost got the axe but was saved when BOE sunk PE. Just glad we have one more year and we are done and I don't have to worry what else is gong to be eliminated from the high schools again.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 8:50 p.m.

Mike - With the exception of band and Choir, almost all of the activities have zero funding beyond sports. Chess and Robotics have to raise all the funds to have their activities. It takes sponsorship for the AAPS robotics teams to even build robots, let alone travel. There is almost ZERO support from the district. Band and Choir are for credit classes, but when the band wants to travel, that is all fund raising at this point, same for Choir. Sports on the other hand gets almost $3,000,000 dollars transferred from the General Fund (that part of the budget that can pay for teachers) each year, in addition to use of sinking fund, bond fund, and other restricted funds to pay for their activities.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 7:39 p.m.

Eliminate band, choir, robotics, and chess while you're at it...............

Nicholas Urfe

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 12:49 p.m.

They just spent a million dollars to re-surface a sports field at Skyline with artificial turf. That should have come out of the "sports" budget, but like many hidden sports expenditures it did not. Does anyone really think "gym class" requires million dollar artificial turf?


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 12:15 p.m.

School sports are revenue neutral in many towns-- ticket prices, concessions raise enough money to cover costs.There's a lot more activities going on in a town like Ann Arbor so the bleachers are't always full but in small towns with strong athletic traditions you see the " Hoosier " effect -- large crowds every Friday night.

Connecting Dots

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 12:04 p.m.

I sincerely hope everyone watches FRONTLINE Tuesday evening on PBS.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 11:45 a.m.

The wide breadth of sports offered in Ann Arbor - how does that compare to other districts in Michigan? Still have not addressed the number of athletic directors in AAPS. My kids didn't do school ports


Mon, Sep 9, 2013 : 2:47 p.m.

Something for everyone - all 3 comprehensive high schools in Ann Arbor have equestrian teams.

Ricardo Queso

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 10:56 p.m.

As Judge Smails said, "The world needs ditch diggers too."


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 8:52 p.m.

33 sports in AAPS, more than the Michigan High School Athletics Association lists, more than the University of Michigan has teams for.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 7:38 p.m.

You'll be hard pressed to find offerings in other districts for a lot of things that Ann Arbor offers.....................check out some of the clubs for example. There's something for everyone.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 7:16 p.m.

There are two athletic directors in Ann Arbor. Regardless of what the article says, John at Skyline is an Athletic Supervisor, not and Athletic Director. Different pay, different benefits and not union. When are they going to get this right?

Kyle Austin

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 6:25 p.m.

It's hard to know for sure who offers the most, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a district with more offerings than Ann ARbor, and that's something the district is proud of


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 11:47 a.m.

sports, they did rec league soccer which I paid for. They did Boy Scouts and became Eagle Scouts - all paid for by me.

Shawn Letwin

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 11:05 a.m.

The article does a great job of highlighting the dramatic change in the need to do fundraising, but it begs the question as to why does it cost so much to fund athletics? In Dexter, the single largest expense is the coaches salaries. -The pay rate is dictated by the contract with the teachers union (as well as the teachers contract driving the primary hiring sequence for all coaching opportunities to be given to a unionized teacher and not the most qualified candidate). -Tenure of the teacher then drives the costs of the coaches salary up (not performance). -The salary starts relatively low and will peak out at around $10,000 for one sport -One season that lasts approximately 3 months. -Adding significant costs to the district also include any mandatory additional contributions to the teacher/coaches retirement as required by the teachers union contract. -Non-teacher coaches see no additional money for their retirement like the teacher coaches receive. Schools have very tight budgets; just like most families and businesses in Michigan. Either the trend to squeeze more money out of families needs to continue or districts such as Dexter need to separate teacher union contracts from the contracts of the coaches.

Kyle Austin

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 1:40 p.m.

Make that Shawn, not Shaun

Kyle Austin

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 1:40 p.m.

Thanks for your perspective, Shaun. I wasn't able to go into detail about every district so I focused on Ann Arbor, although I certainly found Dexter's situation interesting.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 12:43 p.m.

"The pay rate is dictated by the contract with the teachers union (as well as the teachers contract driving the primary hiring sequence for all coaching opportunities to be given to a unionized teacher and not the most qualified candidate). " You are only referring to Dexter here, correct? I know for sure that coaches' salaries have nothing to do with teacher contracts in the district where I teach.

Get over it

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 12:24 p.m.

Unions are great don't you think or was that 50 yrs ago they were?

Nick Danger

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 10:31 a.m.

I certainly understand the need for pay to play. Howeve,it should mean just that pay to actually play.To many kids pay the big bucks but never see the field or court during a game. It's like going to Coloniel lanes ,paying for bowling and shoes to watch others bowl.Lets give all kids a chance to at least participate in the games.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 7:35 p.m.

Don't pay/play is always an option. These teams compete at the varsity level where not all participants get to play, especially as freshmen and sophomore level.


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 1:08 p.m.

My daughter plays a sport at an AAPS high school. Her team is much larger this year than last year. Some players on the team are told they "barely made the team and will see little playing time" but still make the choice to stay on the team.

Get over it

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 12:21 p.m.

At least let them play when your team is up by 30 the starters don't need to be in


Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 12:06 p.m.

I agree----but if the school is covering all the costs then they can do what they want but if the athlete is paying then I say let them play.

Claude Kershner

Sun, Sep 8, 2013 : 11:09 a.m.

Games are a small part of the experience of being on a team. Practice time, road games and being with a group of people who share a common interest are each beneficial in their own way. Rec and Ed allows for everyone to play. At the high school level to suggest paying to play buys playing time eliminates one of the most fundamental lessons high school sports provide: the best players get to play the most. They play the most because they are the best. The final score matters...