Ringgold golf cut ... again
Bob Osleger has never been a fan of summer reruns.
And he certainly isn't pleased with the rerun he is seeing this spring at Ringgold.
Osleger, who has coached Ringgold's golf team for 27 years, received a call Friday from Ringgold Athletic Director Ron McMichael informing him that the school board decided to cut the program.
The board dropped the program for financial reasons last year as well.
However, after making that decision a year ago, the board relented and gave the program one more shot to stay afloat with some financial constraints.
Osleger is not sure if the decision will again be reversed, but he is growing weary of having his sport picked on for elimination.
“I got the call from Ron Friday and when he told me, I said, ‘You've got to be kidding me.' But he wasn't,” Osleger said. “I'm frustrated. I can't understand it. I think it's a shame. Obviously, I'm not very happy and I don't know what the answer is.”
Osleger said he can only think of three school districts in the WPIAL that do not have golf — Monessen, Washington and Avella — and he said those programs were cut because of lack of numbers.
“But that isn't the case with us,” Osleger said. “My assistant (Eric Manko) and I did a sign-up and we had 23 kids sign up for golf for next season and that does not include boys coming up from middle school or Madonna Catholic.”
Last year, out of more than 140 WPIAL member schools, 117 had golf teams.
A year ago, the only costs to the school district for golf were incurred for coaching salaries ($3,600 for Osleger and Manko combined), buses to matches, supplies, dues and fees for tournaments.
McMichael said the district spent approximately $12,000 on golf last year and that was because Cedarbrook waived its charges for greens fees to help the program.
“I'm sure that won't happen again,” McMichael said of the cost waiver.
Osleger said he can't understand why, for the second year in a row, only the golf program was cut.
However, McMichael says that is not true.
“They had nine golfers and we just can't afford to pay that kind of cost for nine kids,” McMichael said. “Nobody wants to cut a program. I certainly don't. But the bottom line is we have made cuts in the sports budget every year since I have been here and the cuts come in different degrees. They come in coaching salaries and numbers, equipment, whatever. But they have all had cuts.
“This is purely a financial decision. There are no winners in a situation like this. Nobody is happy about this. I'm not happy.”
Osleger responded by saying he can't believe a WPIAL Class AAA school can't find $12,000 in its budget to keep a sport going.
“Why can't the district look at some junior varsity sports and cut maybe an event or two to save on the costs of busing and then use that money for golf?” he said. “Ringgold has like four or five track teams it funds. How about just eliminating one or two JV matches and then you have the money to keep the golf program going.”
McMichael doubted the argument that Osleger and Manko will have a large turnout of golfers next year because of the sign-up number.
“I hear what they are saying, but I had 150 kids sign up for track and 100 showed up. I had 75 sign up for boys' tennis and 23 showed up,” he said. “Two years ago I brought back the JV (golf) coach position in hopes of building up the numbers and it has gone in the opposite direction. We went from 16 kids to nine last year.”
Osleger said he and Manko offered to coach the team for free last year and that his players went above and beyond to keep the program afloat.
“Our kids paid for their own jerseys and anything else they needed just to play golf for Ringgold,” Osleger said. “I reel really bad for the kids. And I feel bad for Cedarbrook because they came to our aid last year in an amazing way and now this happens again.
“Golf is a life sport, unlike some other sports. It is something the kids can learn and play the rest of their life. I have had attorneys, doctors, politicians and other officials come through my program and play for me.”
Is Osleger hopeful of a second reprieve?
“I haven't thought about that yet,” he said. “I'm too old to be a school board member caller. I have never done that. Maybe if the parents get involved, something will happen, but at this point I just don't know.”
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.