When Garry Stone assumed the helm of the Holland Central School District in 2003, one school official offered some friendly advice: "Just don't say the word 'football.' "
The official was referring to the rancorous debate in 2000 between those who wanted to create a high school football program and those that didn't.
Now, at the urging of an organization called the Holland Football Club, the School Board is revisiting that proposal. An official of the organization raised the issue during a board meeting Monday night.
"It was a tremendous issue; no one was on the fence," said Board President Joseph Kujda, recalling the earlier situation. "And people in the community still have very strong opinions about football, one way or the other."
One of the two main reasons football was defeated in 2000, Kujda said, was a districtwide survey that ranked the sport last.
The cost of launching a football program could not be justified, Kujda said.
However, Anthony Perlino, a spokesman for the Holland Football Club, told the School Board the organization would foot the bill for the program.
"Our intention is to provide all funding for one school generation -- 13 years -- to provide the opportunity for football in Holland Central School," Perlino said.
The booster club also faces another hurdle. In a district of 1,400 students, many fear a football program will jeopardize sports already in place -- especially the varsity soccer team, which has placed second in the state for two of the last three years. There also are concerns a cheerleading squad could cut into participation for girls basketball, Kujda said.
The district also has been revamping its sports program in recent months. An indoor track team was established this winter, funded by a group of parents, and some residents are asking for an expanded modified sports program in the middle school.
Stone believes the district's sports offerings need to involve as many students as possible.
Board members, meanwhile, agreed they would not rush into a decision and instructed the Football Club to contact athletic director Pat Marvin about the proposal before proceeding further.