It happens every year. A star athlete will transfer from a Cullman County school to play for a bigger program.

More times than not, the bigger program is at Cullman High.

Cullman County schools have lost several great athletes in the last decade.

How many of those great county athletes have made the trek to Cullman? Too many to list in this column.

Let’s just put it this way: A bunch have left, and several of them have gone on to bigger and better things.

County school loyalists can’t stand the thought of such treason. How could a kid — and his family — think about leaving the hometown school for … Cullman?

So when the transfers happen, conspiracy theories, insults and other degrading comments usually follow.

Well, the county is probably going to lose a few more star athletes to Cullman this year. Three different sets of parents have told The Times they plan on making the move.

But when these kids transfer out of the Cullman County system this summer, no one has the right to make any derogatory comments about the athletes, their families or the school they choose to attend.

Why? Because some recent decisions made by the Cullman County Board of Education have crippled some local athletic programs and the future doesn’t look too promising.

The CCBOE let 45 teachers go last week. Nine of those were coaches.

These cuts have already caused damage to programs that were currently in disarray or currently overcoming it.

Hanceville’s football program has taken the biggest hit. The Bulldogs are currently without a football coaching staff.

And it’s not like Hanceville’s football program was in the best of shape.

During the last three seasons, Hanceville has had three head coaches — the program even had a coaching change at midseason last fall. That means the Bulldogs will have their fourth coach in as many years.

No wonder Hanceville has been one of the state’s most unsuccessful prep football programs in recent years — the Bulldogs have only won two games in three seasons.

A coaching change is not a sign of progress. It’s a sign of problems.

So don’t expect Hanceville’s football program to turn things around this season.

Sure, Hanceville has a talented group of underclassmen coming through the ranks. But what good is talent if it’s not coached up?

With no coaching staff in place, who will lead summer workouts? Who will carry Hanceville’s players to 7-on-7 camps? Who will help the upperclassmen with recruiting?

And more importantly, will the new coaching staff be able to install a new system when fall practice begins in early August?

The odds of that happening are not favorable, and it’s not fair to the players. They are the ones getting cheated in this mess.

Hanceville’s football program needs stability — something it hasn’t had in years.

But once again, this once-proud program has been denied what it needs most. That means Hanceville’s football players will have to go elsewhere to find it.

And Hanceville will lose some good athletes in this mess, as will other Cullman County schools.

Vinemont’s baseball program is another victim. After leading the Eagles to a Class 3A, Area 12 championship, first-year coach C.J. Shearer was let go.

That means Vinemont will have its fourth baseball coach in five years next spring.

How is that fair to the baseball players at Vinemont?

It’s not.

Once again: No stability.

The sad part is there are some talented players on both of these programs — athletes that could possibly play in college. But these unfortunate circumstances could prevent them from blossoming.

It could also mean a season of struggles. With no coach in place and no available teaching units — the schools need an open slot to hire a coach — these programs are handcuffed about who they can hire.

The immediate future definitely isn’t bright, so don’t be surprised if a few star athletes start moving out.

And if the kids move to Cullman, don’t get mad at them. Be angry with the school system.

The ones that move are simply thinking about their future. They want stability and a peace of mind that may not be available at their current school.

But it never fails. When kids transfer from a county school to play sports at Cullman, people get mad.

There’s always someone trying to cut the school’s athletic department down — saying the Bearcats should give county schools partial credit for the school’s championships and success.

But when push comes to shove, Cullman and its coaches have done nothing wrong. The conspiracy theories about recruiting are simply not true.

Why would Cullman coaches take that risk? Public schools recruiting prep athletes is against Alabama High School Athletic Association rules.

It’s not like Cullman coaches have to recruit anyway.

Almost all of the school’s athletic programs have been successful in recent years. But more importantly, there is stability at Cullman — its student athletes know who will be coaching their teams next year and what will be expected of them.

And having a well-run athletic program — not to mention a school that ranks near the top in academics — isn’t a recruiting violation.

But if the surrounding schools aren’t as fortunate — thanks to drastic cuts — those two little facts could pull some of the better student athletes away.

‰ Justin Graves can be reached by phone at 734-2131, ext. 257 or by e-mail at jgraves@cullmantimes.com.

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