High School Football

Kentucky school can’t save its football season, despite student rally

More players showed up for football practice Monday morning, but Trimble County High School’s 2018-19 football season couldn’t be saved, Trimble Superintendent Steve Miracle said.

School officials on Monday did not reverse their rare decision to cancel the 2018-19 football season, after deciding that not enough qualified players were available, Miracle said.

Trimble County High School Principal Tracy Poe had announced the decision to cancel the football season Aug. 1, citing a lack of student interest when only nine players were showing up at practice. After people in Trimble County voiced their opposition on social media and at an emergency public meeting on Friday, school officials said they might reverse the decision on Monday if enough capable players showed up at a morning practice. That did not happen, Miracle told the Herald-Leader shortly after noon on Monday.

“We don’t want to put our opponents in a spot where they are getting ready for a game and the day before or the day of, we are calling to say, ‘We just can’t play.’ and cancel. It’s not fair to them.... It’s best to make that decision now. ...We can plan to try to do what we can do to revive the program for next year,” Miracle said.

Kentucky High School Athletic Association Commissioner Julian Tackett said, “It is rare to completely drop a team.” Tackett said that he knew of no other football team in the state that had canceled the season.

“When I talked to the principal, she said they wanted to make a decision as early as possible due to the transfer rule. The transfer rule allows a student to leave a school and enroll and play immediately for another school in the case that a sport the student was participating in is completely eliminated by that school. It is the cessation exception. She was trying to be fair to those students and give them options if it was desired,” Tackett said.

After the decision to cancel the season was announced, 23 students showed up at an emergency meeting Friday to say they wanted to play football. Twenty showed up at the practice Monday morning , Miracle said.

“We were going to hold the practice to determine even the abilities of the 20. It’s not just about the numbers, you’ve got to have enough players that have the abilities to play.,” he said.

Some upperclassmen were probably going to transfer to other teams so they could later play at the college level, said Miracle. Of the 17 players left, “five have never played football in their life,” he said. Of the remaining 12, another five were either freshmen or sophomores.

“That really leaves us with about seven players that are experienced, true varsity players,” Miracle said. “With student safety being the main concern, we can’t put the seven players that are experienced out there with other players that have never played before, expecting them not to get injured.”

Miracle said school officials are still trying to figure out what factors were at play that eventually led to the cancellation. He said the football coach Mike Isley tried to get players to show up throughout the summer, but as of last week only nine players were showing up for practice.

Trimble County was 2-27 over the last three seasons. The roster listed with the KHSAA showed that Trimble County had 41 students playing football at the start of the 2015 season, in which the team went 0-10. The roster listed with the KHSAA in 2017 showed that 27 students were part of the football team. The school’s last winning season came in 2007; the Raiders went 7-5 and won a first-round playoff game — the school’s first — under Johnny Poynter, now the head coach at Bath County High School. That was the football program’s second straight winning season, which in the moment was the first time in 35 years the Raiders had put together consecutive winning seasons. Trimble County also set a school record for points scored — 376 — that season.

Miracle said in the 1980’s the school’s football program was shut down for multiple years and then started again in the 1990s. He said moving forward, school officials were putting a plan together to get students first interested in weight lifting and then would continually reevaluate the numbers of potential players.

“We are kind of in a time where young people have different interests and different motivation,” said Miracle. “We are a smaller community anyway, we have 360 students overall in our high school. Your pool is pretty limited... its hard to field a competitive team, you need 30 plus players to even be competitive.”

Trimble County’s predicament is shared by some other schools, according to media reports. A report from the Indianapolis Star in USA Today earlier this month said that two Indiana high schools have decided that they would not have varsity football teams because of low participation numbers.

Reporter Josh Moore contributed to this article.