DECATUR As a former high school football stand
out at Little Rock McClellan, Bobby King has a great
understanding of how special high school football is.
That's why Thursday was a hard day for King.
King, the athletics director and high school principal
at Decatur, canceled the Bulldogs' varsity football sea
son, citing a lack of participation.
The Bulldogs opened fall practice on Aug. 3 with three
players present. The next day only five showed up.
Participation peaked at seven and King said Monday he'd
give the program until Wednesday afternoon to find
The Bulldogs only had five players show up for
Wednesday's practice. King then went to Decatur
Superintendent Leroy Ortman, who told King to go
ahead and "make the call." "It was a tough call, but I think we've done just about
everything we can do other than going house by house
and taking the kids by the hand," King said. "But then if
they don't want to be out there, what kind of program are
you going to have if you've got a bunch of kids that did
n't want to be out there other than to have a team? I felt
like the kids that wanted to play were there. The rest of
them really didn't want to play for one reason or anoth
er." Decatur was also without high school football in 2003,
when the program was also suspended because of a lack
of participation prompted by rumors of school consoli
Financial distress nearly caused the district to close in
2008 and also prompted several students to transfer out
of the district. The state Board of Education stepped in
and gave the school a year to get its finances in order
under newly-appointed Superintendent Ortman and the
2008 football season was played out.
Decatur finished 1-8 with 19 players on the roster. The
victory came against winless Western Yell County 37-34
in double-overtime, breaking a 16-game losing streak.
The Bulldogs began summer workouts in June with
less than 10 players, but coach Bill Brockert was opti
mistic enough players would be found to field a team.
Brockert could not be reached for comment on
Brockert said last week player eligibility and students
leaving the district factored into the low numbers. He
said more than half of the boys in the school's sopho
more class were academically ineligible.
"There's a lot of factors," King said Thursday. "You can
always speculate from one factor to the next." King, who played at the University of Arkansas for
three years and finished his college career at
Northeastern (Okla.) State University said times have
changed since he played and coached.
"When I was playing ball you were there," said King,
who coached at Russellville and North Pulaski before
getting into school administration. "You wanted to play.
You knew what it was going to take. And you were there
to play sports. But times have changed. There's different
"I don't know what's happened with the kids up here.
With the hits we've had to take the last five or six years
with Decatur possibly being closed or annexed or con
solidated, we've had a lot of parents that decided to take
their kids to other schools. When you do that you get
your numbers down. It's just hard to bounce back from
it. Decatur's been fighting this for the last 10 years.
"(Thursday) was a hard day for me." King said he notified the Arkansas Activities
Association, the chair of the 4-2A Conference and the
director of the officials' association of Decatur's decision
to suspend its football season.
According to AAA executive director Lance Taylor,
four schools have canceled football this season: Decatur
and conference foe Hartford, East Poinsett County and
King said the Decatur program will continue to have
offseason workouts with the intention of bringing varsi
ty football back in the fall of 2010.
As of Thursday, King said Decatur was still planning
on having a junior-high season though only 10 players
were present for Thursday's practice.
King said the district should be able to wait until
school starts Aug. 19 to make a decision on the junior
high team, which had more than 20 players signed up to
play, according to junior high head coach Stanley Ellis.
Sports, Pages 6 on 08/19/2009