Bellows Falls Union High School ends Vermont Academy football agreement

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WESTMINSTER — Bellows Falls Union High School is dropping the school's football "member to member" agreement with Vermont Academy, the private school in Saxtons River.

Principal Chris Hodsden made the announcement Monday night at a meeting of the BFUHS board, saying there was really no advantage to the school any more and there was a potential disadvantage to the agreement.

Hodsden said in a followup interview that Vermont Academy students have been able to play football with Bellows Falls for about six to eight years, under the "member to member" agreement available to all schools that are members in the Vermont Principals Association. He said the agreements had to be renewed every year and limited the number of students. He said the Vermont Principals Association had started "tightening down" the agreements, and had "set the bar higher" for establishing them.

"It might not have any impact, but it might," the principal said of the changes. "We can't wait to see how it plays out." He told the board that "interest has waned" in the program that once saw Vermont Academy send students to compete on the varsity, junior varsity and freshmen football teams.

"Really, there was more of the benefit to VA than us," he said, while adding that VA had contributed a "lot of useful gear" to the joint effort.

The biggest change was that BFUHS had delayed football practice half an hour to accommodate the VA students.

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Hodsden said BFUHS over the years had several "member to member" agreements with different schools, including The Compass School in Westminster, Green Mountain Union High School in Chester, Leland and Gray Union High School in Townshend, and currently with Hartford High School in White River Junction.

The Saxtons River private school dropped its football program several years ago, and approached Bellows Falls about allowing some of its students to play football, to which BFUHS agreed, Hodsden said. But the agreement has the potential to create problems with its standing in Division 2, Hodsden said, and he didn't want to take the chance, instead opting to drop the Vermont Academy membership.

Bellows Falls is on the lower end of the Division 2 schools, he said. There is the potential for a Division 3 school to petition to replace it, and the member to member agreements can play a role.

Hodsden said the school is currently sending two of its female ice hockey players and one male student to compete on the Hartford High School teams under a member-to-member agreement.

Hodsden said he notified Vermont Academy about the decision Tuesday morning after he had informed the BFUHS board about his decision.

Alexei Sotskov, the interim director of sports at the private Saxtons River school, couldn't be reached on Tuesday.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or 802 254-2311, ext. 154.


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