While board members expressed sympathy for the band and promised to try to accommodate them in the future, all five sided with the football boosters' concerns that a band competition during the season would do too much damage to an already fragile field. Bermuda grass trampled by thousands of marching feet would create unsafe playing conditions for the football team that couldn't be repaired until after the season was over, board members agreed.
"I think we should not do the competition this year and revisit it next year," said Sharon Johnson, who said she played in the band when she attended BCHS. "I do hope the conditions change."
Football coach Chris Pardue said the board made the right decision.
"The safety of the kids is the bottom line," he said. "But I do hope they make improvements for all of us."
Contest would have raised an estimated $10,000
The band boosters asked the board last week if they could use the football field to host a regional band competition on Oct. 1. The contest would raise an estimated $10,000 the band needs to buy new equipment. Boosters promised the event would be canceled if the weather was wet and offered to take out a $1 million insurance policy to cover any damages.
"We need new tubas and baritones. Our kids are playing with instruments that are duct-taped together," band booster Julie Wagner said before the meeting. "Our program has grown and we don't have enough instruments."
The school board took the request under advisement and took a week to call several other schools across the state to find out what kind of havoc band competitions wreaked on football fields. The reports they got varied widely, with some schools saying the competitions only did minor damage to others saying that the repetitive "tromping" and "scooting" of marching bands over a day-long event can cause long-term ruin.
The general consensus seemed to be that you can host a regional band contest if your field is well-maintained and has well-established grass; if it is held earlier in the year so the field has time to recover; and if the field is dry.
The condition of Boyle County's field was recently rated "fair to poor" by a turf professional. Superintendent Pam Rogers said the school system has made efforts to improve the conditions during the seven years she's been here, but has made little progress.
"It's kind of embarrassing," Rogers said.
Field likened to Donald Trump's hairdo
Athletics Director Jim Spears explained the field has always had problems. It was filled with pond dirt instead of top soil and it has become too compacted for a good stand of Bermuda grass to take hold, he said. Those who attend games on Friday nights might think the field looks good from the stands, but up close it's a mess, he said, likening it to Donald Trump's hairdo.
"From a distance the field may look good, but up close it's like a bald man with a comb-over," he said.
It would take about $750,000 to install new turf at the stadium, money board members said isn't available. Needed improvements for the track and baseball facilities also have been neglected due to lack of money, they said.
Throughout the evening, band boosters and members said the band worked just as hard as the football team and deserve an equal chance to use a school facility. While the football Rebels have gotten glory for winning five state championships, the marching Rebels have won three of their own. Band members earn scholarships just like football players do, they argued.
"There's too much football. It's swayed to football," band parent Mike Davis said afterward. "It's just not fair."
But John Hughes, who has a son on the football team and another in the band, seemed to come up with the thoughts that carried the night.
"I'm caught in the middle," Hughes said. "The band needs a place to play, but the field can't handle it right now. It's the board's obligation to get it where it can."