APRIL FOOLS' DAY — Taking a cue from the television drama “Friday Night Lights,” Manatee County Public Schools will combine Lakewood Ranch and Braden River high schools’ sports teams beginning next fall.
The decision came after the Manatee County School Board’s budget workshop meeting March 21. Following Gov. Rick Scott’s budget recommendation, the district will have to cut $29.86 million for the 2011-12 school year.
Combining the teams, district officials said, will save both schools about $300,000 annually in salaries, personnel and equipment. Those monies then would be allocated to more “important” items, officials said.
“Frankly, we’re tired of hearing about the so-called ‘rivalry,’” said board member Harry Kannan. “The Mustang/Pirate feud has divided the East County community.
“Not only will this save some money, but we are confident it will build a stronger community in the long-term,” he said.
The board has promised the new team will represent both schools equally. The school board has proposed two names — the Mustrates or the Pistangs — and the uniforms will feature Lakewood’s green and Braden River’s maroon.
Both schools will host mascot and logo contests through their respective art departments.
“Especially because there’s no such thing as a Mustrate or a Pistang, we’re looking for creativity and innovation,” Kannan said. “We’ve heard so much about the division between art and athletics. Here’s a chance for both to work toward a common goal.”
Throughout the summer, the board will work with leaders at both schools to discuss further logistics, including which school will host home games. The host school will retain its football stadium, while the other will be demolished to make room for additional parking.
The board also has started interviewing coaches and other athletics personnel to determine who would remain on staff. Leaders said win/loss records, the number of athletes who earn scholarships from colleges and game attendance all would factor into their decision.