After debate, IR approves alternate black basketball uniform

The Indian River School District board of education has approved the purchase of additional Indian River High School boys’ basketball uniforms that are primarily black with traditional school colors green and gold as trim and accent. As a stipulation, these uniforms are earmarked solely for special occasions at no more than three games per season. (Submitted photo)

DAGSBORO — Tradition clashed with current trends as Indian River School District’s board of education was not unified in the approval of an additional Indian River High School boys’ basketball uniform, earmarked for a limited number of special events.

By a 7-3 vote Monday, the IRSD board authorized through booster program support the purchase of uniforms that are black with IRHS school colors green and gold as trim and accent.

“I know I am certainly more of a traditionalist when it comes to the Indian River green and gold,” said board member W. Scott Collins. “The amount of black on the uniform with green and gold just being accent colors, I certainly don’t like it.”

Board member Derek Cathell said teams at various levels these days are wearing uniforms that deviate from traditional colors.

“There are a lot of schools that are like wearing completely different colors. That seems to be kind of a popular fad that is going on in the sports world right now,” said Mr. Cathell.

In his motion, board member Dr. Leo J. Darmstadter III tendered stipulation that the uniforms cannot be worn more than three times during the season. Connie Pryor seconded that motion.

“As somebody who has coached in the district, as well as I was a player in high school and college in basketball, these black uniforms to me, they look really sharp. I know it’s a deviation from the policy. But if I am speaking for the students, for the district, for IR students, I mean they look really sharp to me,” said Dr. Darmstadter.

“One thing I do know, having coached in the district, our home white uniforms would last about two seasons before the stains on them … we couldn’t use them. We had to play with our away uniforms for a whole season, coaching middle school basketball. I know black holds up better. Darker colors hold up better as far as stains go and as far as wear goes.”

Board members Anthony L. Cannon, Rodney Layfield, Dr. Heather Statler and Leolga Wright joined Dr. Darmstadter, Ms. Pryor and Mr. Cathell in supporting the black uniform purchase.

Mr. Collins, Dr. Donald Hattier and Gerald Peden opposed.

“My concern on this is that I believe the policy is that it is an accent color, and you’ve got enough black in there that it is now a major color, not an accent,” said Dr. Hattier. “That is something we have tried to avoid, certainly since I have been on the board, to get that kind of a major color deviation. This is a major color deviation.”

IRHS Principal Michael Williams added: “We do understand that. That is why we are bringing it to the board. The black is not an accent color. I can share with you that a lot of high schools across the state have done alternate uniforms in black.”

Dr. Hattier said he prefers the original green and gold.

“I am somewhat of a traditionalist myself,” he said. “I don’t get the black; I just don’t.”

The request was addressed at the recent meeting of the district’s Finance Committee. In addition to the black option, there was a second that was mainly gray with green and gold trim.

IRSD Superintendent Dr. Jay Owens noted that district policy “does indicate that any deviation from the adopted colors must be approved by the board of education prior to purchase.”

Mr. Layfield cited an earlier change in the school’s wrestling uniforms.

“I think we had an alternate uniform that had a camouflage pattern for wrestling, and I think it was for a Military Appreciation Night,” said Mr. Layfield. “I know we have deviated and approved in the past.”

Mr. Williams agreed.

“I know some of the other athletic programs in our district have done alternate uniforms. We did take the advice of some of the members that were at the Finance (Committee meeting), and we added a little more green and gold to the uniform,” he said. “It is something that the players and the coaches came to me and asked if this is a possibility. We know that alternate uniforms are becoming popular. It does also prolong the life of our regular uniforms that are typically on a five-year cycle. If we get an alternate uniform that we use two or three games a year, we know that we can probably get another year or two out of our regular uniforms.”

The principal assured board members that the alternate uniform would only be used a few times a year and would not replace traditional-colored uniforms for conference or tournament play.

“It would only be used for certain events. If we were to be in a tournament or any type of playoff, obviously, we would not use this alternate uniform. We would use a traditional green and gold or the white and gold for away uniforms,” said Mr. Williams.

As an example of a special event, Mr. Williams pointed to a game coined “River Madness,” which due to pandemic restrictions will not be staged this year.

“It’s sort of like a March Madness, where we invite the student athletes, our students and families, and we do an exhibition game to start the year. That would be an example of when this uniform would be used,” said Mr. Williams.

“For me, a special-occasion or a special-event uniform would be an autism awareness or a breast cancer awareness or something like that,” said Mr. Collins.

This uniform purchase will be 100% funded through the school’s boosters program, he added.