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Maine Principals’ Association exploring Sunday availability for high school postseason makeup games, meets

Carter F. McCall | BDN
Carter F. McCall | BDN
Members of the Houlton cheering team perform their routine during the Class C state cheering championships on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, at the Bangor Auditorium after the event was postponed from Saturday, Feb. 9. The Maine Principals’ Association is exploring the possibility of using Sunday as a makeup date for postseason games and meets.

The Maine Principals’ Association is exploring the possibility of using Sunday as a makeup date for postseason games and meets.

“We’re certainly not at the point where we’re going to make a proposal, but we’re discussing it,” said Dick Durost, executive director of the Maine Principals’ Association, the governing body of the state’s high school sports.

Durost attended a meeting of administrators from Section 1 states, which included the six New England states, New York and New Jersey, and found Maine is the only state that “totally prohibits any kind of Sunday play.”

“The other states have some form of it,” he said.

However, he said there wasn’t one specific ideology shared by the others.

When Durost was a high school principal 20 years ago, he was responsible for looking into making Sunday available for athletic activities.

“But the proposal was a lot broader, and the membership was overwhelmingly opposed to it,” said Durost. “Maybe it’s time to look at it with a much more narrow focus.”

That focus would be having Sunday available strictly for postseason makeup games or meets.

Under the current guidelines, games or meets postponed on Saturday are pushed back to Monday.

Durost said he understands the religious concerns and why some religion-affiliated schools would balk at Sunday availability, but he also said the Sabbath is observed on different days in some religions.

Maine Principals’ Association assistant executive directors Mike Burnham and Gerry Durgin will survey principals and athletic administrators about the Sunday issue when they meet with the state’s various athletic conferences in the upcoming months.

If there is enough support for it, a proposal would be drawn up and a vote would be held among the principals of the state’s 153 high schools when they convene in March.

Several athletic administrators and coaches favor using Sunday as a makeup date for postseason games or meets.

“Sunday would certainly be beneficial, especially with how fields can deteriorate at the end of the season. Sometimes, Sunday is the best day to play. You want to play on a good surface and a safe surface,” said Orono High School girls soccer coach Cid Dyjak.

He also said if a game is rescheduled for Monday, “a lot of parents may not be able to get out of work [to attend the game] or will choose not to.”

Tim Smith, Foxcroft Academy athletic director, said the Sunday option should be considered.

“It would be nice to have Sunday as a possible makeup day, especially in the postseason or if you’re scrambling to get games in at the end of a season,” he said.

Smith also said if it is an all-day championship that is moved from Saturday to Monday, “the kids will have to miss school on Monday.”

Bruce Nason, Houlton athletic director, added that it is much easier on the families, especially if they have a long distance to travel, to attend an event on a Sunday rather than having to travel after leaving work on a Monday.

Maine Hall of Fame football coach John Wolfgram of Portland’s Cheverus High School said he has been involved in Monday makeup games and that “they’re difficult to play.”

“The kids have been waiting the whole week to play; they’re in school on Monday [before the game] and then you have a short week [before the next game],” said Wolfgram, a proponent of Sunday availability.

Todd Livingston, South Portland High School athletic director, said he likes the Sunday option.

“It’s great for the kids to have a day off on Sunday and have that as a family day, but having Sunday as a makeup enables more family members and friends to attend it,” he said.

“And Sunday is a better option than Monday for something like a state cross country meet because you have so many kids involved,” he added.

Livingston said his coaches can schedule practices on Sunday but must give the players one other day off, and the practices have to be optional in case some players have religious responsibilities or family obligations.

Any kind of Sunday activity is prohibited at Bangor High School with the exception of graduation at the Cross Insurance Center, according to Bangor High School athletic director Steve Vanidestine.

He said he understands both sides of the issue and that it would be up to the school committee, Superintendent Betsy Webb and Principal Paul Butler to determine if Bangor favors it.

“It’s good that they’re going to get input about it,” he said.

Bangor Christian athletic director Kevin Reed and headmaster Jim Frost are against Sunday availability.

“We’re a Christian school, and 100 percent of our school attends church on Sunday,” said Reed. “We already have an issue with games on Wednesday because our kids have middle-of-the-week service and youth groups. Plus, if we have 15 kids on a team, they might live in eight or nine different towns so it’s important to have Sunday set aside for family and church.

“It would be a very tough sell,” Reed added.

Frost concurred but said he understands the rationale behind Sunday availability.

“We certainly aren’t in favor of it, but if it is approved, we’ll have to take a look at it,” said Frost, who added that his children used to play youth league hockey on Sundays.

High-school aged children also play AAU basketball, field hockey and soccer with club teams on Sundays.

Calais High School girls basketball coach Dana Redding said he is flexible on the Sunday topic.

“I’d rather not play on Sunday, but if it had to be done, I wouldn’t object to it,” said Redding.

Hampden Academy athletic director Mike Bisson said when he was coaching, “I was all in favor of it,” but now he feels differently.

“I’m torn,” he said. “I’m against it. The kids need their time with their families on Sunday. We’re asking an awful lot of them. Kids are involved in a lot of activities. And from my standpoint, [athletic directors] put in six long days a week, and I would hate to make it seven.”

Bisson also said Hampden’s field is used by Pop Warner football teams on Sunday, and if a game was rescheduled for Sunday, the Pop Warner children would be denied the opportunity to play.

Maine has already taken a significant first step in allowing Sunday participation.

The Maine Principals’ Association’s Interscholastic Management Committee has given Durost the authority to waive the Sunday prohibition for a student-athlete participating in a New England championship as long as the school, the student-athlete and the parents approve it.

“The other states allow it, and we don’t want to penalize our kids and have them be the only ones who can’t participate,” he said.

He pointed out the hardship involved if a student-athlete and his family traveled a long distance to participate in a New England championship only to have it pushed back from Saturday to Sunday because of weather.

Durost said the family also would have had to pay for lodging in most cases, so it isn’t fair to ask them to drive home on Sunday without having their son or daughter participate.

Administrators from Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont said they try to avoid scheduling regular-season games or meets on Sunday, although John Brown, the athletic director at Wellesley High School in Massachusetts, said the schools and leagues control the scheduling.

“If two schools agree to play [a regular-season game] on a Sunday, they can,” said Brown, who noted that playoff games and events have been scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

“Sunday is an optional day,” he said.

The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association’s state championships in boys and girls hockey and basketball are scheduled on Sunday so the TD Garden in Boston can be used for the events, according to Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association spokesman Paul Wetzel.

New Hampshire’s state field hockey championships are scheduled for Sunday, according to Bill Ball, the athletic director at Exeter High School in New Hampshire.

“Sundays are being used more and more,” he said.

Mike Norman, the athletic director at Rutland High in Vermont, said his son’s state championship basketball game was changed to a Sunday in 2011 because it was held at the University of Vermont, and that was when its Patrick Gymnasium was available.

Norman said he attended Boston College High School in Massachusetts and they used to schedule their Catholic Conference football games on Sunday afternoons.

Sundays are under “local control” in Vermont, according to Norman, so they are available, especially for post-season events or makeup competitions, if the two schools agree.

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