BY JEFF FALK
Is the Elco football team ‘An Army of One’?
Can being associated with the Raiders cause one to ‘be all you can be’.
Does ‘today’s Army want to join’ the Raiders?
Can being part of the Elco football program ‘strengthen your future’?
Intentionally or quite by accident – or perhaps somewhere in the gray in-between – the Elco football team has become a recruiting tool for the United States Army. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, the components of team work, discipline and hard work make athletics and the military very compatible bed-fellows.
But during this reporter’s 30 years of covering local sports, he has never seen advertising incorporated into a Lebanon County athletic team’s school uniform, ever. So was it the result of an enthusiastic, well-meaning former coach trying to stretch his athletic budget, or merely a glimpse into the future of scholastic athletics?
This fall, for the second consecutive season, the pants of the Raiders’ football uniform sported a United States Army emblem – certainly a unique marketing scheme to bring the military’s message into our everyday conscious. And just another reminder that advertising continues to creep into previously forbidden realms.
Apparently, former Raider head coach Mark Evans, who left Myerstown in July to take a similar position at Manheim Township High School, is solely responsible for the Raiders displaying the Army’s logo. Presumably, Elco received the football pants at a reduced or no cost in exchange for its players becoming running, blocking and tackling billboards.
“Coach Evans just worked through the army,” said Elco athletic director Doug Bohannon. “I really don’t know about the details. They were free pants as long as we agreed to wear them. But he (Evans) did go through me.”
Football pants retail at about $80 per pair. So if the 40-or-so pants the Raiders received were free, the United States Army paid about $3,000, for at least two seasons of advertising through the Elco football program.
“We don’t have a policy,” said Bohannon of the school district’s regulations regarding advertising on teams’ uniforms. “It’s something we’ve never really done though. Every time I brought it up, they (fellow administrators and school board members) weren’t really interested. I’ve had similar opportunities in the past. But things have certainly changed with the economy.
“Our booster club has an opportunity to go out and do signage (display advertising at venues and in programs),” Bohannon added. “Mark was a guidance counselor. He didn’t teach so he had more time to do some of those things. They (individual sports programs) have the opportunity to raise money.”
Elco does not charge individual student-athletes a fee to play sports. But due to the ever increasing costs of doing business in the scholastic sports world, some school districts in the area do.
“I guess it depends on what the advertisement is,” said Bohannon, when asked if he is personally for or against student-athletes becoming vehicles for advertising. “I never really gave it a whole lot of thought because it always met with opposition.
“Yeah (it has the potential to defray costs) if it’s done right,” Bohannon continued. “It’s just like anything. Some of our school programs, like Renaissance, run pretty much on advertising.”
So is advertising businesses on scholastic sports uniforms the wave of the future? Or were the 2011-2012 Raiders simply a unique and isolated incident?
“You’ve got to be careful on what you put it (ads) on,” said Bohannon. “There’s PIAA rules and National Federation rules, pertaining to the size and what part of the uniform you can put it on.
“I don’t think you’ll see it on uniforms,” Bohannon added. “But I think you’ll see it in different areas, like in stadiums. But I don’t think it’ll ever look like a race car. If anything, it’s going to be signage. That’s where it’s going to come from.”