Luke Graham: The tiered system should be scrapped |

Luke Graham: The tiered system should be scrapped

Luke Graham

Luke Graham

— The Steamboat Springs High School boys lacrosse team picked up its 39th consecutive Mountain Conference win Thursday.

The conference title, its fourth in as many years, means the Sailors are headed back to the state playoffs. The consensus seems to be that this is the deepest and most well-rounded team Steamboat has ever fielded.

Lacrosse is probably the most popular non-winter sport there is in town. The 75 players that are out for it this season are the most of any sport at the high school.

It's also a Tier 2 sport.

What does that mean? Nearly every high school sports related question I've had has to do with the tiered system at Steamboat.

The discussion has come up again recently, with the transportation budget for high school sports looking at a $30,000 deficit. Athletic Director Luke DeWolfe presented a proposed budget to the Steamboat Springs School Board that would make Tier 2 sports self-funded. It was like this as recently as the 2007-08 school year.

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But each person knows what has happened economically since then. Fundraising opportunities and donations countywide have been reduced by an economic downturn.

The tiered system has never been quite understood, nor have the impacts of it ever been figured out.

"If we start funding (all activities) and we run into tough financial times, how do we fund this?" former Superintendent Donna Howell asked in 2006. "It's a very complicated issue. It has to be thought through carefully."

To make up for it, in the interim at least, the district should find somehow to make up the $30,000 this year.

From there, the tiered system needs to be abolished. It's tough to justify naming one sport a Tier 1 and one a Tier 2 when the reasoning is because that's the way it has been for years. Similarly, the split among Tier 1 athletes and Tier 2 athletes is close to 50-50.

There have been several ideas brought to the table. One is making Tier 2 sports all self-funded.

That would be tough and eventually would leading to a survival of the fittest type of scenario. These teams would battle for fundraising with the strong surviving and the weak eventually being eliminated.

Some people have said activities fees should be raised across the board so the deficit is spread among all the teams. This could decrease participation numbers.

Some say cut freshmen teams or have travel restrictions with teams.

Some say cut entire teams.

All are interesting ideas.

But the tiered system needs to end. It officially was labeled a tiered system almost 20 years ago.

A lot has changed since then. Education, athletics and the way they are funded have rapidly developed.

The good news is all involved seem to be on the same track. It sounds like a committee of educators, coaches and community members soon will be tasked with not just band-aiding the situation but trying to find a long-term solution.

This group should start by abolishing the tiered system.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email

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