Here’s the play that has allegedly been tossed from “downtown”: the Sumner Bulldog’s football program may be cut after this season.
St. Louis Public Schools did not reply to request for comment on this story, but a team of Sumner alumni touched down on Facebook this past weekend to oppose the cutting of the school’s storied football program. One alumnus alleged that the education board would meet to see if the decision could somehow be overturned.
If you ask venerable former Sumner High School football coach Lawrence “Larry” Walls, the fate of the program has been a long time coming.
“Mr. Walls said a long time ago that desegregation would hurt, not only Sumner’s football program, but the entire PHL (Public High League),” said Albert Thomas, a former standout Sumner quarterback-turned-coach.
“We’re not getting the top athletes like we did in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s and there aren’t any houses. It’s a ghost town around here,” Thomas said, adding that “the neighborhood needs to get built back up.”
Fourth Alderman Sam Moore has put forth some residential initiatives and has more in store in the near future for the historic Ville neighborhood, where the school is located. The longtime alderman said he believes that one of the ways that the board may seek to save the football Bulldogs is by combining some schools.
If football is to stay at the school, however, Moore said he just wants the field to be better taken care of. He said that several schools use the field for their games. Even a little league team plays there and a local semi-pro team is eyeing the field as a home.
In addition to that, he said the field is matted, has tears in it and needs to be redone.
“It’s overused,” Moore tells The NorthSider.
“It’s so bad, I was going to stop them from playing there for a while to get the field in shape.”
Moore went on to say that spectators don’t always respect the facility as they litter and someone even stole one of the aluminum benches from the stands.
The City of St. Louis, he said, needs to care for the field after every game instead of once a year as it now does.
Sumner High School is the oldest Black High School west of the Mississippi River and has one of the largest and most active alumni organizations in Missouri. It produced several national icons, including comedian and activist Dick Gregory, dancer Josephine Baker, tennis legend Arthur Ash, and Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Chuck Berry and Tina Turner.