Buffalo Public Schools are continuing the push for more sports - for both sexes - and better sports performances, facilities, coaching and academics.
City schools get only a few students into big-time sports programs and there has been a long effort to do something about that. It is a substantial effort and has gained some help from Pegula Sports and Entertainment.
The effort will start in eighth grade, when the district explains college sports eligibility rules so kids understand they have to keep up their grades to get into the programs and there will be mandatory study tables during sports seasons.
The district also is bargaining with the Buffalo Teachers Federation to move beyond teachers as coaches. Strategic Alignment and Innovation Chief David Mauricio said when he was principal at Bennett High School looking for a baseball coach, he saw that system in action.
"The football coach at the time interviewed for the position and so we had some baseball questions in there and very simple opening questions was, 'How you would work with the students to field ground balls,'" Maurico said. "He got down in a football three-point stance, as if it were a football position and it was a baseball question."
Mauricio said the district has prepared a series of questions and a scoring system to evaluate all potential coaches, whether teachers or not, if there is an agreement with the BTF union.
Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash said he has seen this problem before, citing a conversation with star basketball coach John Calipari.
"What he would say is, 'Doc, you got great athletes, but I can't recruit them because they won't be able to meet the college requirements to come to the University of Memphis, the University of Miami, University of Buffalo' and I found the same issue here," Cash said.
Calipari is now coaching at the University of Kentucky, looking for the very best players.
Mauricio said requiring better academic performance is key.
"We don't want to give them a free ride to play every season and then we see them later without a diploma," Mauricio said. "We want to push them to be the best that they can be and the areas that we are pushing them on are academics: 73-point grade average, which is a C average, as a minimum. Attendance: 90 percent attendance rate. We know that showing up is critically important on the field, but also in the classroom and in the work world."
The sports plan here includes converting three well-worn sports fields and adding a fourth around the city, as well as adding artificial turf to allow more games from more sports to be played on them. Fosdick Field at City Honors is planned as the district expands sports for young women and adds coaches to all sports.
There also is a planned request to the Wilson Foundation for seed money for those fields and for the big dream: an indoor arena for city high school games to better compete with the suburbs and Section Six generally.