Peaster ISD board of trustees decided to wait until at least 2022 to be aligned for UIL varsity football during their meeting Thursday evening at the Administration Building.
All voting and present members of the board approved the decision, while one member, Michael Gentry, voted against stalling the alignment.
Head Football Coach Matt Chapman, Athletic Director Lynn Grimes, Interim Superintendent Rod Townsend and Peaster High School Principal Chris Pennington cited safety concerns with proceeding with alignment.
Chapman said about 17 kids out of the 28 returning to the program, excluding eighth grade entering ninth, could be varsity ready.
“What really kind of enlightened me was we’ve had some injuries and we’re playing a varsity schedule, and we have some kids we’re putting on the field that really do not need to be on the field in some of those games,” Chapman said. “That kind of hurts me as being responsible for those kids, but also knowing we have to go forward and we have to compete and play and that kind of thing.”
Gentry asked Chapman why the program hadn’t been growing like it had in the beginning. Chapman said some kids decided football wasn’t for them and some students picked other sports over football. Some high school football players also usually drop out after freshman year, Chapman said.
“I don’t think it’s spiraling down; I don’t think it’s a big negative,” Chapman said.
Chapman said ideally, a good football team needs more than 20 juniors and seniors.
“They’re growing into men, and it’s a physical sport,” Chapman said. “It’s hard to be a freshman, and even a sophomore, and go out there and compete at that high level.”
Grimes reiterated Chapman’s concerns about safety, particularly for younger kids. Grimes said Peaster is traditionally a basketball community, so starting up the football program may take a while.
“I grew up in Graham, Texas; it was a football community,” Grimes said. “I sort of get growing up little and always going to the games, and you watched and you watched, and you wanted to be a Graham Steer and you wanted to get out there, and that was just sort of part of it. So, I see it happening here; I just think it’s going to take a little bit.”
Throughout the meeting, Gentry expressed concerns about backing out of the promise the board made to the community by saying UIL would start next year. He also said it is the coaches’ job to train kids to be football players.
“The board has made sacrifices, done everything they can to get this done, and it’s on the coaching staff to get the players there and get them ready,” Gentry said. “That’s my opinion on that. For some reason, it didn’t get there, it didn’t build like we thought it was going to. I don’t know what caused that.”
Board President Mike Bowling asked if the decision to delay UIL alignment would cause the program to lose players.
“What’s the most detrimental? That we lose people because we don’t go UIL or do we lose people because we do go UIL and your program suffers?” Bowling said.
To Bowling’s question, Chapman said either one of those circumstances is possible.
Board Secretary Aric Kram and Trustees Keith Busby and Justin McKinley said student safety needs to be prioritized in this instance.
“Now we’re looking at the possibility of some of these kids getting injuries that may be, not life-threatening, but lifelong injuries or something because they’re not prepared for that; they’re too young to be playing against those kinds of kids,” McKinley said. “If we had equal the number of seniors, they just didn’t have as much training, they haven’t been exposed as much but their size, their speed, their strength was of somewhat equal value to the team we’re playing against, then I’d say we ought to move forward and take our lumps, but when you’re putting 14-15-year-old kids against 17-18-year-old kids, it’s a recipe for problems in my opinion.”
After the vote, Gentry said he expects the football program to be in UIL in two years.
Also during the meeting, trustees approved selling an older bus, reimbursing meals for employees for non-overnight travel and campus improvement plans for the elementary, junior high and high school.
Peaster ISD school board meetings are typically held on the third Thursday of each month.