Weber School District discontinues junior high football program

Mar 7, 2024, 6:30 PM | Updated: Mar 8, 2024, 8:48 am

WARREN, Weber County — A decades-old football program in the Weber School District is going away starting next school year.

The Weber School District Board of Education voted Tuesday to discontinue football at its nine junior high schools district-wide.

Some parents who spoke to KSL TV called it tragic and heartbreaking, and they’re left to figure out how their kids can still play the sport so they can get ready for high school football.

”It’s like breaking up with brotherhood,” said Devan Martinez, whose 7-year-old son was already looking forward to playing once he got to junior high.

Steven Barela coached at South Ogden Junior High. He said that brotherhood, and the school spirit, cannot be replaced.

“The kids at the junior high look forward to game day. And even if you’re not on the team where it’s packed at the games, parents are their cheerleaders, student body, the schools, they’re going crazy.”

District spokesman Lane Findlay said the main reason is not enough kids signing up.

“Last year we had about 350 students who played this school year. We had just over 200 that signed up,” he said “I think that was really the driving force in it, is lack of participation makes it very challenging. And there’s also been a lot of turnover with coaches and that creates challenges as well.”

Schools also had to combine teams as there were fewer players at smaller schools compared to the larger ones. Cost was also a factor. Findlay said the program cost $50,000 a year.

“You’re talking about coaches and officials and transportation. And then on top of that, you also have your uniform and equipment cost. And so it’s a rather expensive program to run,” Findlay said.

But parents like Martinez are left to figure out what recreation or community leagues can keep their kids playing the sport to be ready for high school.

“Not everybody can afford that. If I had to do that when I was younger, my parents wouldn’t have been able to put me in football,” he said.

Findlay said the program has been with the district for as long as he can remember, and he said that Weber was the only school district in the state with a junior high football league.

“I know it wasn’t an easy decision. There was a lot of work that went into it as far as the committee and research and looking at the program and really trying to do what’s best overall.”

Findlay said a school survey showed only about half the parents wanted to keep football. But Bacera wished the district had done more advertising.

“You’ve got to treat football kind of like a business. So we have to market this. We got to be on Facebook. We have to be getting word out,” he said.

Martinez said he thinks football at the junior high level keeps a lot of kids looking forward to, and staying in, school. Plus, he said it teaches young men life lessons like how to play on a team.

“For high school, you learn that chemistry, you learn when you’re going to be benched, you learn when you’re not. And to take that away from kids, I think is just it’s tragic.”

KSL 5 TV Live

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Weber School District discontinues junior high football program