The future of Vermont high school sports may be shaped by teamwork. Specifically, it may be shaped by cooperative teams.
Mount Abraham in Bristol and Vergennes, schools located 11 miles apart, have formed a cooperative football team that will begin play in Division III this fall. The schools will share the costs.
Bob Johnson, the director of student activities for the Vermont Principals’ Association, said he expects more athletic partnerships to form in the near future.
“The biggest thing we’re dealing with is the issue of declining enrollments and schools fielding cooperative teams,” Johnson said. “I think we’re going to see a lot more of that in the future.”
Vermont didn’t have a cooperative team until 2009, when Enosberg and Richford formed one wrestling team.
“They’re both very, very small schools,” Johnson said. “They (the two schools) took care of everything in one two-hour meeting. That’s how bad they wanted it.
“Because so many schools have declining student enrollment we revised our policy on cooperative teams based largely on the policy out of Massachusetts.”
Johnson said Harwood Union and U-32 have discussed the possibility of forming a cooperative football team in 2011. Like Vergennes, Harwood has not fielded a football team. In recent years U-32 has had low participation in its football program.
More cooperative teams will likely mean more changes in divisional alignment after the 2010 season.
Vermont’s football programs are in the second year of a two-year alignment cycle.
“The [realignment] process is going to be very interesting,” Johnson said.
FOOTBALL FORMS SUPER SATURDAY
The football championship games in all three divisions will be played at Castleton State College’s Spartan Stadium on Nov. 13. Game times are tentatively set for 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
In past years, the championship games have been played in multiple locations on Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Spartan Stadium has a turf field.
“We don’t believe in cancelling football games because of the weather,” Johnson said. “With turf you’re going to have good conditions.
“It’s going to be very cost-effective for us because Castleton isn’t charging us a penny. They see it as something that will help with recruiting.
“It’s going to be a long day, but it should be a fun day of football.”
SOME OTHER CHANGES IN VERMONT FOOTBALL:
Former Mount St. Joseph coach Chip Forte handed in his resignation three days before MSJ was scheduled to begin practice. Conrad Looney served as interim coach until Torrey Allard was hired as the program’s head coach. Allard’s coaching resume includes stints as an assistant coach at Burlington, Champlain Valley, Colchester and Otter Valley. Allard is the 14th head coach in the program’s 80-year history. MSJ, which has won 17 state championships, dropped from Division I to Division III during the offseason.
Former Mount St. Joseph and Mount Anthony head coach John Callahan was hired as Spaulding’s head coach. Callahan replaced Erik Anderson, who led the Crimson Tide to the Division II championship in 2008. Spaulding finished with a 2-7 record last season, its first in Division I.
Ryan Audet is in his first season as Fair Haven’s head coach. Audet graduated from Fair Haven in 1997 and played college football at St. Lawrence.
Former Springfield coach Mike Hatt is now the head coach at Brattleboro.
Jack Cohun replaced Hatt as Springfield’s head coach. Cohun served on Hatt’s Springfield staff last season.
In response to complaints from parents, Montpelier High has instituted a policy regarding freshman participation on varsity teams.
The topic became controversial last fall, when six of the 18 roster spots on Montpelier’s girls’ varsity soccer team were awarded to freshmen. At the time, Montpelier had no policy regarding freshmen on varsity teams.
The policy put in place allows each sport’s head coach to put freshmen on the varsity roster, but also gives the school’s athletic director to veto the coach’s decision. The new policy:
“Freshmen may be selected for varsity play with input from the coach and the approval of the athletic director. In approving the selection of freshmen to play at the varsity level, the athletic director will consider a variety of factors, including: the emotional and physical maturity of the freshman; the importance of avoiding displacement of eligible upperclassmen who participated at the varsity level the preceding year and who have maintained an appropriate level of conditioning and skill; and whether the competitive needs of the program would be better served by having the freshman participate at the junior varsity level.”
Roger Brown has covered high school sports in New England since 1992. He currently covers high school and college football in the Northeast for ESPN/Scouts Inc.