The Pasco Police Athletic League, active since 1973, is considering turning over operations to another Tampa Bay area youth organization.
PPAL director Tim Couet said he has discussed merging with the Mid Florida Football and Cheer Conference, one of the fastest growing leagues in the state. The league has welcomed teams defecting from the PPAL.
Mid Florida president James Hogan said there's a hangup to any merger.
"They (PPAL) wanted to join us but they want to stay intact as a league and oversee their district as a PPAL district of Mid Florida," Hogan said. "We just get teams together and organize the league. We don't have any control on how they operate. The individual organizations control themselves and we didn't see a need to add a third party."
Only six teams remain for youngsters ages 5-14 in PPAL: Land O'Lakes, New Port Richey, Zephyrhills, Crews Lake, Hudson and Trinity. Several others have joined either Mid Florida or the Tampa Bay Youth Football League.
"It's like capitalism in that you always have competition," Couet said. "This obviously creates problems, but we've always said that if you can find something better for your child, then that is what you should do as a parent. The more options that exist for kids to play, the better it is and we want to be one of those options.''
Teams that left the PPAL complained about rule changes and poor communication from the Sheriff's Office. A Times report in February of 2010 noted the departure of the Lutz affiliate from the league, followed soon by the West Hernando Cougars and Wesley Chapel Bulls.
"A lot of the teams discussed leaving and we began to think there was going to be no more PPAL," Wesley Chapel Bulls director Doug Johnson said. "There is no support from the Sheriff's Office except for a meeting once a month that is basically nothing more than a complaint fest amongst the parents. In the years I was there, the sheriff never appeared at a single game. He needs to be involved somehow, but we never saw the sheriff or (Couet) at a single game."
Johnson said he has been delighted with the difference at Mid Florida league, citing the communication between league officials and program directors as a major difference.
Couet maintains that since his appointment three years ago, the Sheriff's Office's involvement with the league has increased significantly.
"That was true for a long time, but I think that if you ask people now what they think about how we handle the league, they'd say that it's been getting better," Couet said. "We removed the previously appointed board so that we could be more involved. The amount of complaints have gone down, and we're doing better background checks for people who want to be involved in the league so incidents are also down. The Sheriff's Office once took the position that we were here to help but not really run the league. That has changed, and I think the league is better because we're more involved now."
Still, there has been recent controversy at Stanley Park in Lacoochee. The Dade City Pirates left to join Mid Florida after some directors complained they could not get enough children enrolled after being forced to move to Lacoochee from Dade City three years ago.
"Last year we could barely field a full team for each game," Dade City Pirates director Britt Dorsett said. "We had 60 kids across five age groups. In September, it was everything they could do just to finish the games, forget being competitive. There just aren't enough kids from that area to form teams with a sufficient amount of players in all the age groups."