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Three youth football programs to stop playing in Green Bay

Middle schools will offer the sport in the fall

Feb. 18, 2013
 
The Westside Wolverines are one of three Green Bay youth football programs that are closing.
The Westside Wolverines are one of three Green Bay youth football programs that are closing. / Press-Gazette Media file photo

Three privately-run youth football programs are closing, following the Green Bay School District's decision to launch a middleschool program.

The Green Bay School Board approved the program for seventh- and eighth-graders on Jan. 28. It kicks off in the fall.

St. Thomas More School, the Westside Wolverines and the Eastside Bulldogs have since decided to end their programs, according to Pete Mears, athletic director of the Falcon Football program, another privately-run group.

Programs are run by independent booster clubs, Mears said. Booster clubs either have voted or have told the Great Lakes Independent Football Conference commissioner that they plan to close, he said.

In the past, students in the Green Bay district’s middle schoolshad to join private youth leagues and pay fees if they wanted to play football. Those programs offer scholarships for families that cannot afford fees, Mears said.

A public school program eliminates potential transportation issues and allows all students to participate, district officials said. It also keeps students in the district who might otherwise attend class in other districts because they offer football.

Private programs that are closing may not “want to compete with public middle school programs for various reasons,” Mears said. “It’s challenging to compete when you have to charge a fee and they don’t.”

He estimated about 60 students participated in St. Thomas More’s program, 150 in the Wolverines program and 120 in the Bulldogs program.

The league will continue despite the loss, Mears said. Five teams remain, he said, and the league has reached out to a league in the Fox Valley.

“We should have a full schedule,” he said. “We anticipated we might lose a few teams.”

About 120 kids participated in the Falcons program last year, and Mears said no one has said they are not coming back.

“I feel good about where we are,” he said.

The private teams hope to work with the Green Bay schools, he said.

“Certainly we would much rather still have had those three teams in Green Bay,” he said. “But it wasn’t completely unexpected. It’s difficult for those struggling to survive financially.”

Patti Zarling writes for Press-Gazette Media

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