The Scranton School Board has cancelled plans for a Thanksgiving football game between Scranton and West Scranton as enthusiasm for a second meeting in the same season was waning and threats that some players would boycott the game were building.
Board of Education members were unanimous in their decision in a Sept. 4 vote.
Athletics and Stadiums Committee Chairman Bill Fox acknowledged ‚??legitimate concerns from principals, athletic directors, coaches, athletes and parents,‚?Ě in the decision to cancel the game. Fox said part of the resolution to suspend the game includes a measure to investigate shifting the first and only meeting between the schools to Thanksgiving Day beginning in the 2014 season.
Scranton Superintendent William King said the school board‚??s decision to cancel the second game included scheduling concerns if one or both teams made the playoffs and player safety in a game that isn‚??t that important to the overall season schedule.
‚??With the football season ending Nov. 2, the school board decided that it was in the best interest of student athletes to cancel the Thanksgiving Day Bell Game,‚?Ě King said.
The board decided last year to renew the Thanksgiving tradition by pitting its two schools against each other that day at Memorial Stadium. Logistical issues did not all go as hoped, however, and the Lackawanna Football Conference schedule required the teams to meet Oct. 5 for their Division 1 game.
‚??One of the biggest issues was the fact that they were going to be playing twice in the season,‚?Ě first-year West Scranton athletic director Rick Bresser said. ‚??Coaches were against it for a lot of reasons, but I think the idea of playing twice was paramount in their reasoning.‚?Ě
George Roskos led the drive to bring Thanksgiving football back to the district in his only year as West Scranton athletic director. He stepped down to become baseball coach at the school, removing one of the contest‚??s biggest proponents.
Once the schedule was set, concerns grew about player interest in a game 20 days after the end of the regular season. It was feared that players from a losing team that missed the playoffs might not want to practice through that long break or that a team in the playoffs would have less interest in an exhibition game, even with the school district‚??s traditional bell at stake for the winner.
‚??A lot of the idea was that this would be The Game,‚?Ě Bresser said. ‚??The Bell Game is usually a week-long thing and it probably would not be if we were playing twice.‚?Ě
Complaints from parents and players confirmed that the game was losing interest.
Some parents informed coaches that they would not let their sons participate in a Thanksgiving game. Some players expressed the desire to move on to the start of their winter sports season if the football team is otherwise done before Thanksgiving.
‚??Neither coach was enthused about playing the game because a lot of kids and parents were not enthused,‚?Ě Bresser said. ‚??There were concerns that it would turn into a JV game with a lot of the kids, who would normally be out there, not playing.‚?Ě
Prior to the implementation of state playoffs, West Scranton played Dunmore and Central played Tech each year on Thanksgiving. The former Central and Tech schools are now part of Scranton High.
Bresser said the idea of the game is not completely dead.
The board decided to cancel plans for this two-year schedule cycle, but as Fox also noted, the issue will be revisited next fall for the 2014-15 seasons.
Bresser and Scranton Athletic Director Ted Anderson are expected to survey coaches, athletes and parents next year at this time to see if there is interest in the game for the next two-year cycle. The response will be presented to the board, which would request the LFC allow the teams to play on Thanksgiving only if there is interest in the holiday game.