The Northeast Bradford School Board on Monday tackled the subject of whether to allow students to play football for another local school district.

However, after much discussion on the matter, the board opted not to take any action on the matter. Board member Matt Smith made a motion to form a committee made up of parents, administrators and board members to study the question further. However, the motion died for lack of a second.

Also at the meeting, a parent expressed concern that he had heard some people outside the district say the Northeast Bradford cross country team had cheated to produce a winning season.

Football

Board President Ed O'Connor explained during the meeting that the district has been examining the possibility of allowing NEB students to play football for an outside district for about a year. Northeast Bradford doesn't have a football team, because it would be too expensive for the district to start up and support, he said.

According to information presented by O'Connor, which was produced by district Superintendent Heather McPherson, there are a number of factors which prohibit the board from approving NEB students from participating in football outside the district. Among them are:

1. Cost. O'Connor explained that the administration has determined it would cost about $15,000 a year in transportation costs, plus an additional $10,000 a year to the participating district, for a total of $25,000 per year. This would be in addition to the money the district now budgets for sports, O'Connor explained.

2. School identity, or school pride. Many board members expressed reservations about allowing NEB students to wear the colors of another school district while they were playing football for that district.

3. Weakening the teams of existing sports programs. Many board members and a few coaches expressed concerns that if the district allows students to participate in an outside football program - or starts a new sports program in the district - it would permanently weaken the teams of the sports programs already in existence. The argument was students opting to play football would leave the cross country, soccer, and other teams, and there wouldn't be enough members left to make them effective competitors.

Among those who came out in support of students being allowed to play football in another district were Brian and Debbie Chilson of Rome. Debbie Chilson explained that she has a son who loves playing Towanda Junior Football, and would like to see him have the opportunity at the high school level. Those in support of the idea urged the board to look at the matter further. However, O'Connor explained that the board has discussed the matter twice in two executive session, and the administration has made inquires over the past year, but no equitable solution has been found.

After the meeting, Smith explained that he made the motion, and supports the idea of students being permitted to play football, because he believes everyone should have the option to do so.

The discussion turned controversial during the meeting when Brian Emick of Rome said that some people outside the district have contended that the NEB cross country team produced a winning season by "cheating." Emick's contention came after some board members expressed concern because they felt that - given school identity or school pride - NEB students should not be wearing the colors of another school district to play on its team.

Emick later explained that he does not believe the cross country team cheated. He - who has children attending NEB - said he is very proud of the cross country team members, as well as all the other students at Northeast Bradford. Emick said he just wants all students at Northeast Bradford who want to play football to be given the opportunity to do so. Asked about the "cheating" contention, Emick explained that when he's spoken to some people outside the district, they have suggested that he move to a particular school district which has produced winning sports teams using methods other than those at Northeast Bradford.

Later during the meeting, cross country coach Michael Murphy defended his team, saying that the cheating contention is merely "sour grapes" on some people's part. Murphy insisted that the cross country team has consistently won because of practice, dedication and hard work on all part of all the team members.

"How can you cheat at cross country?" Murphy asked.

C.J. Marshall can be reached at (570)-265-1630 or e-mail: cjmarshall@thedailyreview.com.