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The Union Leader (Manchester, NH)


Pay for play: Portsmouth and Dover may be willing to provide the opportunity.

DURHAM — The Oyster River School District athletic director is working on a plan that would allow high school students to play football in either Dover or Portsmouth.

Oyster River High School does not have a football program. Athletic Director Andy Lathrop says a cooperative agreement with a neighboring city would not cost local taxpayers.

Lathrop said Tuesday a local youth football program serves about 80 children but forming a high-school team is not being considered locally. Instead, Oyster River students would be able to play football in Dover or Portsmouth on a pay-to-play basis.

Lahtrop said it is estimated it would cost $460 per player if an agreement is reached with Dover while it could cost between $500 and $600 per player in Portsmouth.

Transportation to and from practices and games would be the responsibility of parents.

During a school board meeting Dec. 20, Lathrop said Dover and Portsmouth are the only schools in a reasonable commuting distance that are interested in a co-op at this time.

Lathrop said any assumed liability from adding football would be low because according to the district's insurance carrier, when a district is insured for athletic activities it is assumed football is part of the program.

Lathrop said it is unlikely that adding football for students would impact other fall sports because the male turnout for other teams is high.

Board member Allan Howland said at the meeting there has not been a viable option for high-school football in Durham.

"When we went through it before, and we talked about the ideal size for football, Oyster River is just too small. It's not economically viable to run a football program. We just don't have the numbers to do it," Howland said. "A cooperative agreement is the only viable way to have football."

Howland said Portsmouth might be a better option because they have the same school-day finish time.

Superintendent James Morse said Wednesday he has received emails both supporting and opposing a cooperative agreement.

"There are community members against opening up the door to football. In addition, I've received emails from proponents supporting the cooperative agreement as a mechanism that opens the sport for those interested in playing," Morse said.

Morse said there will be a community forum on the topic Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. at Oyster River High School.

The school board will discuss potential agreements with Dover and Portsmouth again on Jan. 17, Morse said.

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January 4, 2018


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