School Sports Take Big Budget Hit In Gulfport

Doing the track team's laundry is one of Coach Prince Jones' duties.

"I don't really have to do this, but I believe in taking care of the equipment."

From now on, Gulfport's Athletic Director will have to take even better care of the uniforms. That's because he just learned from the superintendent that his department will lose about $60,000 next year.

"It's a big hit, but I think that he did what he had to do."

That means the coaches can't replace worn-out balls and equipment as often, and players will have to cut back on meals and travel expenses.

"We normally, say, go rent Conner Cain or those nice buses, but we got to ride these yellow buses."

Senior Durell Johnson said, "Offensive lineman and defensive lineman, we're kind of big. On the way up there, we're going to be cramped".

The budget cuts will force coaches to come up with a different game plan to pay for the things they need.

For instance, they'll have to hold more fund raisers, find volunteers to sell tickets instead of hiring someone to do it, and make sure fans come to the games and fill up the bleachers.

"Instead of them coaching and getting what they need out of the athletic department, now they got to coach and go out and work extra hours and promote their team," Coach Jones said.

The coaches and players say they'll have to make some big adjustments, but the cutbacks won't hurt their team spirit.

Senior Michael Handy said, "Uniform or not, you're going to play how you're going to play".

Durell said, "It's the person in the uniforms that counts though".

While Gulfport and Biloxi Schools are already taking steps to make ends meet, most other school districts want to know how much money they'll receive from the state, before deciding which jobs and programs end up on the chopping block.