High school sports: Sac City Unified schools try to sort out budget cuts

Published: Thursday, Jun. 21, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 2C

John Heffernan, Burbank's football coach and athletic director, is trying to remain optimistic even though the Sacramento City Unified School District has eliminated all funding for sports.

"There's a lot of concern, but I'm trying not to let budget issues take over my life, either," Heffernan said.

District school board members voted in May to eliminate all funding for sports to help close a budget shortfall of $28 million the district says could grow to $43 million if a statewide state tax measure fails to pass in November.

For Burbank, that means a loss of $155,000 for coaching stipends, transportation and equipment.

Heffernan hopes the district will return all or part of the funding before school starts in the fall.

"We're in a holding pattern," Heffernan said. "But I've already told all my coaches to be prepared to work for free."

Without funding, Heffernan said it would be a challenge trying to operate a full sports program at Burbank, which has little booster support.

If no district funding comes through, Heffernan said Burbank and other schools will have to prioritize their sports programs.

"I don't think there will be a blanket cut of athletics," Heffernan said. "But we'll have to decide which sports to keep and which to cut."

Open Division debate – Sheldon boys basketball coach Joey Rollings isn't a fan of the CIF Open Division playoff format that begins next season.

After next March's Sac-Joaquin Section finals, a CIF committee will place as many as eight of the top Northern California teams into an elite division, with the winner playing the Southern California Open Division survivor.

The move is designed to help thwart private-school dominance while sparking more interest in the postseason. Private schools have swept the boys and girls state basketball titles the last two seasons.

Last March, eight of the 10 boys state finalists at Power Balance Pavilion were private schools.

One of the two exceptions was Sheldon, which lost 66-48 to Mater Dei of Santa Ana in the Division I final.

"… It's going to (hurt) us," Rollings said of the Huskies' bid to return to the state final. He said Sheldon would likely go from playing two or three private schools to four or five, and all would be top programs.

Based on the CIF's new criteria, a NorCal Open Division last season likely would have included 2012 D-II state champion Archbishop Mitty of San Jose; 2012 D-IV state champion Salesian of Richmond; 2011 D-I NorCal champion De La Salle of Concord; 2012 D-III NorCal champion Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco; 2010 and 2011 D-III NorCal champion Bishop O'Dowd of Oakland; and 2012 D-V NorCal champion and 2011 state champion St. Joseph's Notre Dame of Alameda.

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