Troy High’s lack of players has program spiraling downward
Troy – Coach Gary Griffith is beside himself.
Next season it’s likely he won’t be beside his varsity players at Troy High.
Once one of the state’s top programs, Troy is on the verge of collapse. For the first time in over 40 years, perhaps 50, Troy will not have a freshmen football team. The Colts were 0-9 last season and were competitive in just one game. This followed a 1-8 season prompting those in power in the Oakland Activities Association to drop Troy from the White Division to the Blue.
Less than a decade ago Troy came within one series of making the Division 1 final. The Colts led Livonia Stevenson late in the game before surrendering a touchdown losing 40-35 in a 2007 state semifinal. Troy made the playoffs each of the next two seasons, finishing 6-4 in both, and hasn’t qualified since. It’s as if the program hit a wall.
There are a number of reasons for the fall of Troy as a football power. One is the fear parents have that their child will incur a concussion.
“Our demographics have changed,” Griffith said. “With the incoming freshmen, the parents are concerned with concussions.”
Griffith’s program has also been indirectly hit by a school district policy. There are two public high schools in Troy and four middle schools. The enrollment at Troy is 2,318. At Athens it’s 2,188.
“We have open enrollment one way,” he said. “Troy has more students than Athens so an X amount of students can go to Athens if they fill out a questionnaire. I’ve complained but (administrators) say it has nothing to do with football. I lost four (freshmen) players I know of to Athens. Four players I know who could play. If I had those four players I could field a freshmen team.”
As it stands Troy has 13 freshmen committed to play, too few to sponsor a freshmen team. Griffith estimates that he’ll have 30 on the junior varsity and 40 on the varsity, and for a school with Troy’s enrollment, that’s low.
But Troy is not alone in facing this problem. Even coaches like Chris Smith at Utica Eisenhower have seen a drop off in participation. The Eagles often would have 85 or 90 on varsity. This season Smith has 65. That number is good for the large majority of programs but it represents another example of a decrease in participation.
The Troy school district has four middle schools. One feeds Troy, one feeds Athens and the other two are split. The students from Boulan Park middle school go to Troy and Griffith said there were 17 on the school’s tackle football team, and some of those were in the seventh grade. When Griffith spoke with some of the players he was told that that was their last season playing football explaining that their parents wouldn’t allow them to participate in the sport in high school.
Griffith said he understands their concerns. There are inherent risks when one decides to play football. He said his staff have never worked harder creating a healthier environment and encouraging leadership roles.
“The problem is the parents I want to talk to won’t talk,” he said. “Our numbers are bad at the middle school level. I don’t think we’re the only ones. Unless we combine school districts I don’t see us having a program (in the future). Maybe they’ll combine middle schools and have just two teams.”
On a positive note, Griffith said this season his team should be competitive but doesn’t know how that will equate as far as wins and losses. That competitiveness should last through the 2017 season as well. After that, well, Griffith said the outlook isn’t good.
Losing often leads to discontent and that’s the case here. Griffith said five players, who likely would have started this season, transferred. Among those are two 2015 junior varsity players who would have added stability and youth.
“In 2007 we had 15-to-18 players who went on to play in college,” Griffith said. “This year we might not have one.
“I can’t continue to fight it.”
It’s not official but Griffith’s 43rd season as a coach at Troy, 26th as the head coach, could well be his last.