Our View: Leveling the playing field in tiered prep sports systems


Editorial Board, January to May 2013

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Randy Rudasics, community representative
  • John Centner, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

The time has come for the Steamboat Springs School District to rid itself of an antiquated tiered sports system. We think such a change is possible with collaboration and funding from the district, the Education Fund Board, the Steamboat Booster Club, community supporters and the families of student-athletes.

High school officials said it will cost about $67,500 to move all of the school’s sports programs to Tier 1. That figure includes an estimated $30,000 in transportation costs for the sports teams. Given the proven benefit extracurricular activities like sports play in the academic and social lives of students, the community’s passion and commitment to athletic endeavors and the inequities fostered in the existing tiered system, it’s hard to think a solution can’t be determined in time for the 2013-14 academic year.

First, a brief history is in order. The tiered system began in 1974 when a group of parents started a club cross-country team. The School Board allowed it as long as it didn’t financially impact the high school or the district. The boys soccer team started the same way in the mid-1980s, and the district began labeling those add-on sports as “Tier 2” in the early 1990s. 

As recently as the 2007-08 school year, Tier 2 sports were self-funded, and parents drove student-athletes to and from games. But to avoid liability issues with travel, the district began to fund transportation costs, as well as some coaches’ salaries. Tier 2 sports include baseball, cheerleading, golf, hockey, lacrosse, Alpine and Nordic skiing, tennis and wrestling. Tier 1 sports are basketball, cross-country, football, soccer, speech, track and field and volleyball.

Student-athletes in Tier 1 and Tier 2 sports now pay $150 participation fees and $30 transportation fees. But Tier 2 sports’ student-athletes have additional operating costs to cover, such as coaches salaries, game officials fees and equipment and uniform purchases. To fully fund all sports, the district would need to come up with $37,500 to provide operating budgets for programs currently designated Tier 2 and an additional $30,000 to make up its estimated sports transportation budget shortfall.

In a presentation to the School Board last week, high school Principal Kevin Taulman and Athletics Director Luke DeWolfe provided four options: keep the status quo; make all sports Tier 1 and shift more costs to the district; make all sports Tier 2 and shift more costs to athletes and their families; or cut athletic programs.

We think there’s a compromise solution that can be sustainable for the district. Make all sports Tier 1, consider a modest increase in the participation and/or transportation fees, closely monitor all athletic programs in terms of participation levels and work with the Education Fund Board, the Booster Club and other community supporters on funding mechanisms to help the district deflect some of the cost of fully funding all sports.

Consider for a moment that an estimated 85 percent of the high school’s students participate in extracurricular activities and that during the 2011-12 school year, there were 289 athletes playing Tier 1 sports and 259 athletes playing Tier 2 sports (some students play multiple sports). We respect the difficult balancing act of keeping activities affordable for families and not compromising other important school and district budget areas. But we also know sports are incredibly beneficial inside and outside the classroom to many student-athletes and that the overall cost to dump the archaic tiered system is manageable. It’s time for a permanent solution.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 2 months ago

Consider for a moment that an estimated 85 percent of the high school’s students participate in extracurricular activities and that during the 2011-12 school year, there were 289 athletes playing Tier 1 sports and 259 athletes playing Tier 2 sports (some students play multiple sports)

And that is how to interpret statistics to create a lie.

85% of students are not in the athletic program. The 85% number counts the number of participants in each sport and compares that total to the number of students. But, many students participate in more than one sport and are in many sports.

Thus, in reality, the percentage of students participating in sports is way below 85%

If the public is going to consider an issue then it would be helpful if it printed accurate facts instead of a blatant misrepresentation of reality.


Brent Boyer 4 years, 2 months ago

Scott, My understanding is the 85 percent figure refers to all extracurricular activities, including athletics and other programs.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 2 months ago


The 85% number is linked to a previous article. The previous article adds up every participant in every Tier 1 and 2 sport and then compares that to the number of students. That ratio is 85%.

The previous article never mentioned extracurricular activities.

How an editorial on sports can cite an 85% number and then when questioned on the accuracy of that number then introduce the idea it includes extracurricular is a really sad way to avoid admitting making a mistake.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 2 months ago

Oops, there is speech and cheerleading in the previous article. So maybe that article is counting extracurricular participants.

But that just means the 85% of students claim is more clearly demonstrated as being wrong because it is counting everything in which many students are participating in multiple activities. And so most clearly 85% of the students are not in extracurricular activities.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 2 months ago

From linked article:

" In fact, an astounding 85 percent of the school’s 643 students participate in an extracurricular activity."

"This year, there are 289 student-athletes who play Tier 1 sports and 259 who play Tier 2 sports. "

So paper added 289+259 to get 548 which is 85% of student body population of 643. And, anyone with a calculator can see that the 85% of student body claim is based upon the known false belief that no student participates in more than one activity.

Pretty bad paper didn't correct article in the first place. Even worse that they repeated the mistake in the editorial. Really bad that Brent defended it without checking it. Apparently, the job of editor is to figure out excuses and throw up smokescreens when questioned on factual claims instead of demonstrate the accuracy of the claims.


Fred Duckels 4 years, 2 months ago

What if we acquire ping pong and hop scotch teams are they entitled?


Scott Glynn 4 years, 2 months ago

There is a big misconception out there that is stemming from the semantics of the argument. The Tier I / Tier II debate is not about the funding or non funding of activities. The debate is not about what sports are more popular. And, the debate is not about every sport becoming Tier I.

The goal is to completely abolish the tier system. No more Tier I / Tier II. No more Tier I. Simply - Sailor Varsity Athletics. The goal is to not have a system where any individual sport is funded to a greater extent than the others. The goal is to put all Varsity Athletics on equal footing in the purview of the district and have all sports share in the athletic budget equally. It is the view of many parents and supporters that not any one activity is of greater value to the student athlete than another.

The challenge is how do we provide metrics that establish whether or not a sport is viable? At what point is participation enough to field a program? What type of "success" is required to keep funding a program? All difficult questions to answer. There are some exceptionally bright, and committed people convening to work through these issues to develop the answers.

Scott Wedel, your points are understood but there needs to be some clarity in both the reporting and your argument. The athletic budget also funds activities outside of the "sports" arena. Drama, and forensics are also in the mix. Dance showcase is another example of an activity that receives support from the district as well as participating in booster club fundraising opportunities.

There is a lot more information out there that spells these ideas out. Essentially what the A.D. has asked is that the district absorb the cost of funding all coaches salaries and a basic supply budget for each teams basic equipment needs. Other costs, uniforms, transportation, officials, extra equipment, medical supplies, athletic trainer costs, will all be funded from the participation fees, and the gate revenues with individual team budget shortfalls to be addressed by the booster club on an as needed basis.

Scott Glynn, President Steamboat Springs Booster Club


Scott Wedel 4 years, 2 months ago

Scott Glynn,

I am not making any argument other than the 85% of student body participation claim is clearly false because of students participating in multiple sports.

It is bad practice to make decisions on known inaccurate claims since then the decision will be second guessed when the facts are known.


Carrie Requist 4 years, 2 months ago

I am all for abolishing the tier system and having all sports be Sailors Varsity sport. My questions revolve around what the process will be for determining what sports are offered. What will be the process for dropping or adding a sport? Will it have to do with number of participants? number of spectators? success of the sport? How will new sports petition to be added? The key issue seems to be what if a group wants a new sport and the athletic department declines, but the group says they will self fund. Is it still a no? If it is a yes, aren't we right back to the 2 tier system?


Scott Wedel 4 years, 2 months ago


I think you nailed the issue. Tier 1 vs Tier 2 which is based upon the starting date for an activity makes no sense. But simply funding every current activity also makes no sense because then it opens the questions of what about new activities or whether some current activities are worth funding.

I think one criteria is easy. If nearly all the other league schools compete in that sport then that should be a funded sport. It is worthwhile to support the league even if that activity has a dip in local popularity.

For the other activities there are several criteria to weigh together. Number of participants, number of other schools in state fielding teams and quality of competition (if high school competition is second rate compared to that of club competitions then less of a reason to support the activity).


Kevin Nerney 4 years, 2 months ago

Scott, your logic escapes me. "If nearly all the other league schools compete in that sport then that should be a funded sport." How are new things ever going to get started if one must always do what one has always done? When we brought Lacrossse to the Mountain Region from the east coast there obviously were very few schools with similar programs, so who did we compete against. We traveled long distances to areas where other schools were taking a chance on something new started by people from the east coast. Sure enough it caught on like wildfire and today we have an unbelievable amount of kids involved in Americas oldest game. Unfortunately, closed minded people like you are out in Craig and their kids have missed the opportunity of a lifetime to be involved in such a fantastic game.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 2 months ago


I said nothing about eliminating or preventing funding for a new sport like lacrosse. I said that existing sports played by other league schools should receive funding. Then I stated other criteria to be used when deciding to fund other nonleague sports.

A new sport to the area could still be funded by looking at participation, the sports growth and so on. I think that every activity should not automatically receive funding.

If you are arguing that every proposed sport automatically receives funding then do a handful of students wanting to play beach volleyball automatically get funding? Does the chess or bridge club receive funding for a coach and funding to play in Front Range tournaments? Especially when chess and bridge tournaments are open to players of all ages and team competitions between high schools are noted for rarely being competitive or displaying a high level of play.

At some point there has to be criteria on what does and does not receive funding.


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