Like many aspects of life in rural Alaska, putting on a football game is tough work. Until recently, though, some communities didn't realize just how much the games were costing school districts.
In Ketchikan, which is settled on a chain of islands in southeast Alaska, persuading opposing teams to make the long, difficult trek for a road game is much easier said than done. And unlike schools in most other states, away games aren't required to be played, since such a requirement would place some schools under significant economic strain.
But without opponents, Ketchikan can't play a football season. The school board's solution: Paying opponents to defray travel costs.
The issue came to light at a recent school board meeting, where football players revealed that one of their home games was in jeopardy, according to KRBD radio. The opponent, Seward, was wanting to cancel their trip to Ketchikan after the city allegedly reneged on an $8,000 payment to cover Seward's travel.
In the end, Ketchikan paid $8,700 to Seward, and the game was saved. But some in the community don't feel the reward was worth the cost.
"I’m confused and somewhat dumbfounded about our school district paying for travel for other communities to come here," said one Ketchikan residentat a recent city meeting.
The superintendent replied that, without paying schools to travel, Ketchikan would never have opponents to play in football.
Travel to Ketchikan is so expensive because it is an "off the road" school, meaning opponents cannot travel by car or bus. Only plane and, in Ketchikan's case, boat are available as travel options.
This is why Alaska's governing body for high school sports does not mandate that opponents play scheduled games. Similar quandaries are found throughout the state in places like Nome and Barrow, the latter of which spent $44,000 to host four football games in one season.
One solution in the works is a state-wide funding pool to cover travel expenses for communities in hard-to-reach areas. But barring its approval, Ketchikan has to decide how much a home football game is worth.