Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Why shouldn't we consider a three-district program?

Letter to the editor:

Most people my age remember stories of parents or relatives when football teams from Marquette, Superior, Iron Mountain and others played the teams from the Iron Range in the 1920s and into the 1990s.

They and we kept an eye on local sports pages when in the armed forces or working throughout the country. Men and women from the area exceled in sports, academics and, of course, the military, during our lifetimes. Closing the mines resulted in smaller school populations and less economic opportunity for the graduates of the Iron Range/U.P high schools.

This has hurt all of us to provide what we would like for our students. Qualified coaches and officials who inspired greatness in athletics, academics and personal conduct to these student athletes and their communities are now difficult to find.

As a retired high school soccer coach and official (track and soccer), I realize the standards imposed upon coaches in all respects of their own lives and on the field is a high bar to meet in our modern society. Coaching is a six- to seven-month job, even if the coach doesn’t teach. They attend seminars, keep up with their players’ weight training and academics, take online NFHS required courses and attend state or national conventions.

Has the time arrived for a change in the philosophy of sports in the Iron Range/U.P., specifically the Gogebic Miners football program in the communities involved?

Eight-man football, soccer or a program that includes Ironwood high school under a single neutral banner insures a qualified coaching staff all schools can afford, larger varsity and jayvee teams, and being upgraded to a higher MHSAA class. Sports, along with good academics, still is an opportunity for all players to go to a college of their choice. There have been players and coaches from our western U.P. schools recognized at the state, collegiate and professional levels of football. Eleven-man football teams get noticed more often downstate or in other states.

Co-op has already happened. Extension to a three-district program shouldn’t be difficult to facilitate if we want our students to participate. Why shouldn’t we consider doing it? Procrastination helps no one, especially the outstanding student athlete who deserves the opportunity to excel at the next level, as past student athletes did.

Other players in schools that dropped football drive 30-60 minutes to play at a larger school; 15 minutes is a non-starter if a young man truly wants to play football. After all, it isn’t the name that makes a top football program, it’s your student athletes. Our grandparents came here to prosper as part of a larger mining and lumber community. There’s no reason to deny your students that opportunity.

John L. Turkal, Bessemer