When the 2011-12 school begins, the City League will have been reduced from 13 member schools to just six.
Come fall, of those remaining six Toledo Public Schools entries, only two of the six current athletic directors will return.
It was shrinking numbers of another kind that contributed to the retirement decisions of the four outgoing ADs -- Randy Bartz of Rogers, Dan Sanders of Start, Bob Utter of Waite, and Connie Stanford of Woodward.
With the TPS district in the midst of a budget crisis and its teachers union negotiating a new contract that will have inevitably significant cuts, it was the trimming of retirement benefits -- most notably a likely loss of severance pay from unused sick days -- that ultimately forced the hand of the four.
All have accumulated between 320 and 370 sick days, the latter figure being the maximum allowed for severance reimbursement. The severance amount is calculated by taking the number of days accrued multiplied by employee's current pay rate, and retirees then receive 70 percent of this figure.
In present negotiations, one board of education proposal is to reduce the allowed maximum from 370 to 120 days, which would equate to the loss of roughly one year's pay for each.
All of them said they would have liked to continue in their working capacities for at least a few more years, but that the uncertainty of the next contract was not worth the risk of losing benefits.
"It's the financial state of athletics, and that I'm 68 years old," said Stanford of the main reasons for her decision. "It's not that I really want to leave, it's just that it's time."
Stanford says she has loved sports since she was in elementary school, and "hardly ever missed a game, home or away," when she attended Libbey for two years, and then Maumee (1961 graduate) for her final two after her family moved.
"I think it's a tragedy when they start cutting sports," said Stanford, who became an assistant AD in 1979 at Woodward, and then began her 28-year run as AD in 1984. "The lack of a wrestling program has really hurt Woodward.
"When I was in high school, we expected to have sports. That's all part of the high school experience. It was a very important part when I was in school, and I think it's still important for kids today to have that. It's one of the few things we can offer in addition to academics."
"It wasn't what I had planned," said Utter, 55, who has spent the past 28 of his years in education with TPS after working five years at Cardinal Stritch. "I wanted to go another two years to get 35. But, when I met with STRS [State Teachers Retirement System] I found out I couldn't get the [maximum] 88 percent anyway because five of my years were Catholic school time.
"The combination of not getting the 88 percent, plus the possibility of what's going on with TPS and the severance package, money wise, it just didn't make sense to go any further than I've gone now."
Utter arrived at Waite in 1983 as a teacher and head basketball coach. He also served as an assistant football coach, and started his 18-year run as the AD in 1994.
"With all the proposed cuts, it just makes sense for me to go right now," Utter said. "Economically, it doesn't make sense for me to stay."
Bartz does have his 35 years in to maximize his pension, so the severance issue was the major factor in his decision.
"With all the changes coming up with TPS and the state teachers retirement, it was just time to go," said Bartz, 60. "I'm going to miss the Friday and Saturday nights, going to games. I've been doing that at Rogers for 11 years. Football games, basketball games, track meets."
Bartz came to TPS in 1976, was an assistant football coach at the former DeVilbiss High School for 11 years, and served as a Rogers football assistant from 1991-95 before becoming head coach from 1996-99. He has been AD since 2000.
"The demise of the City League also factors in," Bartz said. "I've been involved in the City League for 35 years and I just hate to see what happened. It's just not going to be the same."
The league changes and his retirement are two of the three big life changes for Bartz, whose wife Christine lost her long battle with cancer on Feb. 19.
"Right now I have no idea what I'm going to do," Bartz said. "Losing my wife was the most difficult thing that's ever happened."
Sanders, the youngest of the four, also found that this was the right time to exit TPS.
"The biggest reason was financial," said Sanders, 53, of his decision. "The rules have just changed. We're going to have to make sacrifices with the changes in the contract because of the lack of [budget] money.
"Some people are going to lose their jobs. What also came into my decision is that my position will be filled, so somebody will get to keep their job."
Sanders started in the TPS system in 1979, was a wrestling coach at both DeVilbiss and Start, and became Start's AD in 2007.
"I had three more years to go to get 35," Sanders said, "and I had planned on going at 35. It would be a big sacrifice losing my accumulated sick days as promised to me by all the previous contracts. Plus, you have the state teachers retirement plan and Senate Bill 5. All of those things kind of weighed in. Everything's going in the wrong direction."
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