NELKE: No more hoops at Cd’A Charter

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Athletics at Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy is funded differently than at other schools.

The school pays coaches salaries and tournament entry fees. Uniforms, equipment and facilities expenses must be covered by gate receipts and fundraising.

Teams do not take buses to away events. Parents are responsible for getting their kids to the games.

“This is foundational to our school,” Coeur d’Alene Charter principal Dan Nicklay said. “Every dime spent on a ball is a dime we don’t have for a book, and we are unabashedly an academic school first.”

THAT’S WHY, for financial reasons, as well as competitive and other reasons, Coeur d’Alene Charter made the decision last spring to drop its boys and girls basketball programs.

“For years, we had difficulty fielding teams, being competitive, and paying the gym rental,” Nicklay said. “We have no intentions of bringing basketball back.”

Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy started a boys basketball program in the 2003-04 season. In its fourth season, coach Brian Childs guided the Panthers to a 22-4 record and a third-place finish at the state 1A tournament.

That’s the only time the Charter boys ever went to state. In seven seasons under Childs, the Panthers posted records of .500 or better five times — and four of those years came after they moved up to the 2A Central Idaho League.

But since the start of the 2012-13 season, Charter had four coaches over the next five years. The Panthers opted to play as a junior varsity team in the 2014-15 season. The other three years, Charter was a combined 8-52, including a 4-14 showing last year, its first in the 3A Intermountain League.

“In truth, the program simply was not successful on several levels,” Nicklay said. “Every season we were unsure whether we would have enough kids to field a team (two years ago, we had only a JV team). We were unable to hold on to coaches. The work required of our AD to secure facilities and schedule games and practices was ridiculous. No one attended the games. And, of course, they just weren’t competitive.

“And then the financial burden was a key element.”

WHEN NICKLAY coached the Charter volleyball team in 2005 and ’06, he recalls it costing the program some $2,000 to rent a gym for practices and games (the school currently rents Holy Family Catholic School).

“Now I believe it’s closer to $8,000,” he said. “When you’re not packing the gym, it’s pretty hard to pay that bill. Historically, the volleyball team has not had the same difficulty as the basketball programs did in making enough money. This year they have held more practices at our own little gym (a multi-purpose room).”

Coeur d’Alene Charter started a girls basketball program in 2008-09, playing as a junior varsity program. They went varsity the following year, and has had three winning seasons, but has never been to state.

Charter also offers girls soccer, cross country, track and field and tennis.

Nicklay said the Panthers are considering starting boys and girls golf next spring, and possibly starting a boys soccer team in the future. In girls soccer, Charter has played in the last three state 3A championship games.

Nicklay said they can add those sports because the costs are inexpensive.

He also scoffed at rumors Charter may add facilities on campus, including a gym.

“Probably not in my lifetime,” Nicklay said. “There has been no discussion of such a thing, with the exception of an occasional parent inquiry. It’s just not financially feasible for us to build a gym and then maintain it. If we were to spend a million dollars on building, I can fairly well assure you that it would be on classrooms rather than athletic facilities. We just don’t roll that way. Barring a wealthy, sports-centric donor, this is a nonstarter.”

WHICH BRINGS us back to Coeur d’Alene Charter’s now-defunct hoops programs.

“My criteria for sports and activities have always been that they be self-sustaining, that they be at least somewhat competitive, and that they provide a positive experience for our students,” Nicklay said. “In my opinion, those criteria were not being met. For the work all of us — administration, coaches, and players — were putting into it, we weren’t getting a good return. Basketball was not a source of pride for the school, the student body, or its participants.

“For what it’s worth, we haven’t heard any clamoring to bring it back.”

Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via email at mnelke@cdapress.com. Follow him on Twitter@CdAPressSports.

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