Frank Kolbmann has heard all the reasons why Holland can't have a high school football program. It's too costly; the enrollment is too low to support it; other fall sports would suffer; the chance for serious injury is high.
He has a simple response: "The rest of the nation seems to be able to do it. I don't understand why Holland can't."
Kolbmann was on hand with some of his fellow members of the Holland Football Club during Monday's School Board meeting to remind district officials that there is a way for the district to have a football program that won't cost taxpayers a thing.
The football club last November approached the board with what seemed to be an astonishing offer: Give us the OK to start a district football program, and we will incur all of the costs for 13 years, the number of years a student would spend in the district from kindergarten through senior year in high school.
Club members estimated the total 13-year price tag would be about $500,000.
District officials have lauded the offer and applauded the effort but have been slow to embrace the proposal. (See the above reasons.) Kolbmann and his fellow football fans call that kind of thinking a "prehistoric isolationist view."
At a time when one suburban district, Williamsville, might be on the verge of becoming the first public school system in Erie County to have a girls hockey team, club members simply want Holland to have a sport that is available in almost every other district.
"I just want to give my kids and the rest of the kids the opportunity to play high school football," said Dan O'Neill, another football club member.
Although Holland has never had a football program, there is plenty of history to draw from on this issue. In 2000, football supporters succeeded in getting funding for the sport in the proposed budget, but voters rejected it by a resounding 81 to 19 percent. Then, when the budget was resubmitted with football deleted, it was defeated again by a 2-to-1 ratio.
The lingering effects of the divisiveness of that vote may have contributed to a budget defeat the following year.
"I do not want to see this history repeated," School Superintendent Garry F. Stone said in a district bulletin this month.
Earlier this year, the School Board heard the results of a feasibility study it commissioned to determine whether it could field a football team. The report, from the Western New York Education Service Council, raised several familiar concerns and also noted that the district might not have enough fields to accommodate football. Wear and tear also would be a factor.
Skeptics also point out that football supporters will not say exactly where the money will come from. Anthony Perlino, who is leading the club's efforts, said some sources don't want to be named publicly. Asked if he would characterize them as individuals, foundations or businesses, he said: "All of the above."
Perlino said all of the potential problems cited by critics will be addressed. As for what would happen if the cost grows far beyond what the club has raised, he said it was possible that the 13-year plan could be cut, or more money could be raised.
It will be up the the School Board to determine if this idea becomes a reality. In the meantime, Perlino said he likes to cite something he was told by an athletic official in the Salamanca district about finally bringing football to Holland: "If you want to do it, you can get it done."