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A changing student population means less football, more soccer

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Buffalo Public Schools may have as few as four high school football teams this fall, as the district grapples with a changing population that is more interested in soccer. Buffalo is in the midst of a major reorganization of its high schools. Neighborhood institutions like Bennett High School are being phased out in favor of a high-tech computer school. Other schools have increasing populations of immigrants, who have interests in different sports than previous school populations.

While city schools had some powerhouse teams over the decades in Harvard Cup football, that has changed because the district is changing.

"Spectacular football field with a very memorable Harvard Cup history and, going into Section Six, they even made some waves the first year," recalled City Athletic Director Aubrey Lloyd. "But if you take a look at Riverside and schools like I-Prep and DaVinci, they've become soccer schools."

Lloyd said the district might have less teams this fall, but football will continue.

"Football is not going to fade out in Buffalo. That's a cornerstone," he said. "Football is always one of those foundation sports that you have in every school district. It's not going to fade out. Remember in the glory Harvard Cup days, we had nine football teams. We entered Section Six. But, you have to really understand, demographically in our school district, we're a very international school district. So we have schools becoming international and international kids love to play soccer."

Lloyd said if a student is at a school that does not have a football team, they can play football for another school - and many do. The shortage of interested kids and resulting shortage of teams means football players shuttle across the city for practice.

"We took Riverside and brought them down to Bennett, Lafayette down to Bennett, DaVinci and I-Prep being so close to Hutch-Tech, we took them over to Hutch-Tech," Lloyd said. "I guess as a community member, I would say a particular coach didn't like the fact he didn't get the school that that coach wanted and brought it to a board member and here we are."

The district has money in the new budget to get students home after practice because they travel so far for the sport. It is also looking at ways to add and improve playing facilities.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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