Tiger athletes deserve better

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 29, 2005

When Mike Williams took over the Greenville High football program, he knew there would be some hurdles to clear to get the program pointed in the right direction.

Only those hurdles are more like landmines.

When fall practice began almost two weeks ago, about 50 Tigers scaled the concrete steps to begin work on the practice fields. But I would be amiss to call them fields. They were more like stretches of barren earth that had just a sprig or two of grass.

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Needless to say, the upkeep of the football practice fields was beyond neglect. It was obvious that the fields had not seen a stitch of care since last season.

Throughout the summer months, I don't recall seeing an ounce of water, aside from an afternoon shower, to nourish the fields.

Because of that neglect more than 50 young men as well as their coaches have had to practice in a quagmire of mud and what is left of the grass on those fields.

It's become a health hazard and finally something is being done about it.

City of Greenville and county workers have spent countless hours trying to repair the practice fields that quite frankly look unrepairable.

But this should not come to a surprise to anyone.

This just goes with the territory.

Beside the practice fields sits a $15-plus million high school that is state of the art. It would be the envy of most high schools across the state. It is a perfect learning environment for the students, but you can't say the same for its student-athletes or their coaches.

If you walk to the back of the school's gymnasium you will notice a double-doored area marked for storage.

That storage area actually is the locker room for the football players to dress and it doubles as the weight room.

So the players have to try to avoid being tripped up from weights and equipment in their so-called dressing room.

That's just the tip of the iceberg. The coaches' officesŠoh yea, well I would comment on those, but they don't have any. Unless you count the storage areas turned into offices.

How about the showers for the football players to use. Oh, yea, they don't have those either.

Last week I watched some young men strip from their muddy practice clothes and jump into their school clothes to rush home to take a shower, because there aren't enough shower stalls to use.

Having covered high school football in three different states, I've seen some impressive and oppressive football facilities. Greenville's, without a doubt, is the worst I've seen for a school its size.

So the obvious question is why. Why should Greenville's student-athletes be subjected to such substandard facilities?

Since I've been in this area, I have often asked why no practice facilities were put next to the high school and what has been the future of a newly constructed stadium. The common answer I get is I don't know, or they ran out of money.

The school has been in place along the interstate for every person to drive by and marvel at for almost 10 years. And during that time, not a single bit of progress has been made to improve the athletic facilities on site.

It's an embarrassment. Those who had the foresight to provide the students of Greenville a first-class learning environment should get a huge pat on the back. But at the same time those who are earning a pat on the back, should also be scolded for not seeing the project through to the very end.

If there were plans for a new stadium on campus as well as an athletic facility, why hasn't the foundation been laid?

OK, so you may have run out of money. That's an acceptable excuse for about a month.

So what's happened for the other seven or eight years? That excuse just doesn't hold water.

What should be done is a capital campaign should be put in place. If we pride ourselves in giving the students at Greenville High a first-class facility, let's finish the job.

Raise money to build a better facility to compliment the high school. I would be more than happy to be the first one to make a donation to the fund if it ever came to fruition.

But something tells me that my money is safe.

Kevin Taylor is sports editor of The Greenville Advocate. E-mail him at kevin.taylor@greenvilleadvocate.com or call (334) 383-9302 ext. 122.