SWANTON — Missisquoi Valley Union will go forward with its plan to move the football team to varsity in the fall of 2016 after two years as a club sport.
The MVU board voted 5-2 at a Dec. 17 meeting to make the move, replacing Winooski in Vermont’s Division III, pending the Vermont Interscholastic Football League (VIFL) meetings this spring.
On Town Meeting Day March 1, a football funding item of $10,000 will be on the ballot as a special article separate from the school budget. The board’s approval allows the football team to go forward as varsity regardless of whether the measure passes. School Board Chair Denis Boucher said that funding would have to be raised privately if the ballot item fails.
Voters in March of 2014 rejected a budget that included $40,000 for a new junior varsity football team. In April of that same year, they rejected a separate ballot measure to fund football 852-139.
Boucher said last month that the board was supportive of the measure, and the intention from the beginning was to go full varsity after two years as a club team.
“This is what we said we would do,” Boucher told the Messenger. “The board largely has been in favor of the program and we’ve heard only good reports, even from community members. Everything sounds so positive.”
Boucher added that after the initial start-up costs, the $10,000 was a lower price tag than some members anticipated.
Principal Dennis Hill, who has been an advocate for MVU football since its inception, stressed the importance the program has had on the lives of students, both inside and out of the classroom.
“It’s great the board continues to support activities for students,” said Hill, adding that a $10,000 annual cost is low compared to other schools’ football programs.
Hill stressed that the $10,000 item is separate from the school budget. He said that supporting the measure is an investment in the school’s students.
For the most part, Missisquoi Valley Union athletic administrators were reluctant last month to discuss the team’s plans. Athletic director John Lumsden and coach Steve Sheeler were hesitant to comment on the potential for MVU to replace Winooski in Division III next fall until made official in the spring.
In setting their two-year divisional alignments last spring, the VIFL and Vermont Principals Association planned to have Missisquoi become a Division III varsity program to replace Winooski, which said at the time that it would drop football after the 2015 season.
According to the Dec. 17 meeting minutes, Hill confirmed to the board that Winooski has folded its program, leaving an opening for Missisquoi. The board also heard testimony from parents of football players on the positive effects the team has had on the students and community.
Vice chair Earl Fournier moved to make football a varsity sport, seconded by Lisa Letourneau.
When contacted by the Messenger last month, Fournier expressed enthusiasm for Missisquoi’s plans for a varsity football team, but hoped it would not have a negative affect on the overall budget, which Hill said is up 1.23 percent.
“It’s a pretty sound budget,” Fournier said.