The Friday night stroll from the ticket booth to the bleachers in a high school stadium can seem more like a long guilt trip for a football fan.
Experience a walk down Booster Boulevard:
After purchasing your game ticket and thinking you've put your wallet away for the evening, you notice the father of the team's star running back selling programs.
He solicits a donation. You know all the players and don't really need a program. But, hey, you gotta support the home team.
You fork over a buck.
You bury your face in the rosters hoping no one else will bother you. But wait. There's your friend, whose son is a starting lineman. He's selling 50-50 tickets. If your number is drawn at halftime, you split the pot of money with the school.
It would be nice to go home with an extra 100 bucks. And the team could use the money.
You buy five tickets for a dollar.
Then you pass the booster club table, where they're raffling off a video cassette recorder and a color television. That catches your eye.
Hmmm. Nice equipment. Hate to miss a chance at those goodies. But $5 per ticket seems a bit steep. You're told that if you buy a ticket, you'll have a chance at the Hawaii vacation they're giving away at the end of the season.
You buy three.
Just as you approach the bleachers for what you think will be a financial breather, the coach's wife, who has a box filled with school T-shirts, license-plate frames and seat cushions, hits you up for a sale.
You say no thanks.
"C'mon, where's your school pride?" she asks.
You're not sure, but you have this funny feeling you'll be sitting on it tonight.
You buy a seat cushion.
When you finally settle into your seat, it hits you. You're a V.F.R.--victim of fund raising.
Don't panic. You're not alone. This scene, give or take a raffle or souvenir sale, is played out in virtually every Orange County high school stadium on game nights.
The money that schools allocate for their football programs just isn't cutting it for most teams. If a coach wants new uniforms or some extra equipment, or if the booster club wants to have a postseason banquet, they have to raise the funds for such luxuries.
And who usually absorbs most of the cost? The fans, who, in most cases, are parents.
But don't feel so bad. Sympathy is on the way.
"I have a particularly tough time going back and asking parents over and over again for money," El Dorado Coach Carl Sweet said. "They're hit hard enough. They have to pay for shoes, insurance policies . . . it's tough when they're always writing checks for things. We're tapping the same sources all the time. I'd like to be able to open other sources for revenue."
Several schools have found an answer in bingo, which generates money from people who may not be affiliated with the school or booster club. But not all schools, because of city ordinances or school district regulations, are allowed to have bingo.
So, they must rely predominantly on the traditional forms of fund raising--ad sales in game programs, 50-50 tickets, raffles, souvenir sales. And those are just the game-night functions.
Most of the heavy fund raising is done during the off-season, in the form of lift-a-thons (in which players get pledges for the amount of weight they can lift), car washes, candy sales . . .
"It's another way to beg," Foothill Coach Ted Mullen said.
Fund raising is not one of Mullen's hobbies. The Knights rely on two main sources for income--ad sales in the game program and a lift-a-thon just before the season, which raises from $2,000 to $6,000.
The booster club handles the program, and Mullen oversees the lift-a-thon. The coach uses those funds for special purchases, such as team T-shirts, or pregame meals--things the school budget doesn't cover.
"With the boosters taking care of the postseason, if we can take care of us, we're fine," Mullen said. "I like to do it just once and that's it. I don't feel like raising a lot of money and going to Hawaii."
Bob Johnson, El Toro coach, hates fund raising, too. But it would have been impossible to send his team to Pennsylvania for a game on the school's budget.
To help fund their season-opening trip to Whitehall, Pa., El Toro had a $100-a-couple dinner dance last spring, complete with door prizes and a $100-a-ticket raffle. El Toro also had a lift-a-thon. The dinner/dance raised about $12,000, and the lift-a-thon raised about $15,000.
Despite their success, Johnson wishes there were another way.
"It's nice to have the extra money, but it's a hassle, absolutely," he said. "I want to coach, but it's almost getting to the point where coaches are becoming salesmen. If we worked that hard on fund raisers in some other business, we'd be millionaires.
"And who gets it? The parents. They end up with 10 pancake breakfast tickets or 10 car wash tickets. I despise asking my kids to go door-to-door. I'd just as soon ask them to perform on the field and in the weight room."