Mission Prep athletic director Vic Ecklund is preparing for the possibility the school won’t have a varsity football team in 2017, according to an email sent to area athletic directors Friday.
In the email obtained by The Tribune, Ecklund wrote that the Mission Prep football program, which has been struggling to find enough players and hasn’t fielded a junior varsity team the last two seasons, is “faced with the decision of moving to an 8-man football program or finding a solution to keep moving forward with an 11-man program.”
“Our goal, to keep moving forward with an 11-man program, would be to field a JV only football team for the 2017 season,” Ecklund continued in the email.
In 2016, Mission Prep was forced to forfeit a September game scheduled with Sierra Canyon because of a lack of healthy players.
When reached by phone Monday, Ecklund initially denied the varsity program was in jeopardy.
“Absolutely not,” Ecklund said when asked if the school was considering doing away with varsity football. “I don’t know how that rumor came about.”
“We are always concerned about our numbers, but we are just going to kinda do the best we can to get on-campus kids to play the game. We have a plan,” Ecklund said. “We haven’t thought about (canceling the varsity program) yet, and hopefully we don’t have to go there.”
When told The Tribune was in possession of the email he sent out Friday, Ecklund said the email was just a “feeler” to gauge the reaction of local athletic directors.
“We plan on having a varsity team next year,” Ecklund later said, but acknowledged there’s always a possibility that the school might not have enough players to field a team.
The 2016 Mission Prep football team, which finished 4-6, is graduating 11 seniors and had just four juniors listed on its roster. Mission Prep head football coach Chad Henry said Monday he doesn’t know what the future holds.
We are always concerned about our numbers, but we are just going to kinda do the best we can to get on-campus kids to play the game. We have a plan.
Vic Ecklund, Mission Prep athletic director
“I am not 100 percent certain what (Mission Prep) is going to do at this point in time,” Henry said. “There is all kinds of possibilities.”
“Inevitably it comes down to how many guys you have,” Henry continued. “You can want whatever you want, but if you can’t get guys out, it really doesn’t matter.”
Henry said Mission Prep has explored everything from moving to 8-man football to having only a varsity team like it did this season to possibly moving to a JV-only program in an effort to rebuild numbers.
“We have asked ADs around about scheduling a JV-only and how that would affect them, trying to be open with everybody, just because we don’t want people at the last minute to be like ‘Oh, I’ve got to find four games,’ ” Henry said.
In the email to area athletic directors, Ecklund wrote, “We are asking for your support in putting together an 11-man JV-only schedule for the upcoming season. We would like to fill any openings that you may have in your schedule. We appreciate your support and communication on the topic.”
Henry said the school has also been looking into “dumbing down our schedule a little bit” to play lower-ranked teams and working to understand why kids playing other sports at Mission Prep are not coming out for football.
“At a small school we need to have multi-sport athletes. There just aren’t enough athletes to go around,” Henry said of Mission Prep, which he estimates to have around 145 male students.
Henry said the goal is to have about 45 to 50 students in the football program. In 2016, Mission Prep had 34 players.
Henry said he was scheduled to meet with Mission Prep officials Monday to discuss more about the future of the program. Both Ecklund and Henry said they will continue to explore all options and plan to have football, in some form, at Mission Prep in 2017.