What’s to come: The future of Burke athletics


Kayla Doll

Photos of teams and coaches affected by new school openings next year

For the past two years, Omaha Public Schools has anticipated new high schools that are opening in the Fall of 2022. These two new schools are Westview and Buena Vista. With the logistics of opening these schools, the school will only host freshmen and sophomores for their first year, with each year more staff and students. The news of the schools have attracted current teachers and staff at Burke to relocate and start fresh. Some of those staff that will now attend the new schools include Burke coaches.

Since Westview is a brand new school, the athletics program needs time to become fully established. This leaves many wondering how varsity athletics will work with only freshmen and sophomores, or if only JV and freshmen teams will be formed. Football Coach Ben Ryan sheds light on how this will work for football, specifically in the upcoming school years.

“Westview will only have freshmen and sophomore students for the 2022-23 school year. We will play a varsity schedule, mainly against Class B competition for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons then make the switch over to Class A the following season,” Ryan stated. “Freshmen and sophomore student-athletes will have the opportunity to play varsity level games possibly earlier than at other schools.”

This past month, Coach Ryan and baseball Coach Scott Hodges announced their news to be Westview’s new coaches for their respective sports. This has left the athletes in their sports with mixed reactions, most being excited for their coaches next steps.

“I’ve known about his decision before most people heard about the news. I’m happy for him, he deserves it,” freshman football player Cam Bell stated. “It was time for him to move on.”

With the athletic departments starting from scratch, this has brought excitement for coaches and their ability to build the programs. Ryan is looking forward to starting over with a brand new program.

“As a head coach, Westview provides an exciting and unique experience to build a football program from scratch. I have had a great experience during my time at Burke with the coaches and administration,” Ryan said. “ I am very excited to begin working with the administration at Westview and know they will provide fantastic support and leadership for our football program.”

In addition to Ryan’s departure, head football coach Paul Limongi has also announced his transfer to Westside. With two football coaches leaving next year, the football program will see drastic changes in coaching staff and many things are still up in the air.

“With two new schools opening and the reduction in numbers, it will make it harder to attract students and student-athletes. It is a numbers game and when your numbers decrease, your talent pool and depth seemingly will be affected,” Burke athletic director Jason Williams said.

With these changes, some Burke freshman who live in the Westview neighborhood are having to figure out what it looks like to transfer to Westview or continue their education and athletics at Burke. This choice has proven difficult for athletes, especially in football and baseball, as the programs will experience major changes within the coming year. Bell, who played for the Burke varsity football team as a freshman, lives in the Westview neighborhood..

“I’ve decided to stay [at Burke] because of the current football program. I feel like it would be a step backwards as a player if I left,” Bell said.

For administrators, finding and hiring new coaches has been hard. The process involves both administration at Burke and OPS Human Resources. This process has been time consuming and finding a coach that’s a good fit for the school has proven strenuous.

“Burke has never had turnover like this and we’re losing long tenured, excellent teachers and coaches. We also have the challenge of figuring out staffing regarding hiring a ‘teacher who also coaches’,” Williams said. “The thought is that a teacher-coach has a greater presence in the building and the Burke community. There is a delicate balance with hiring coaches. Ideally, you want all your coaches to be teachers, but at the same time, want to hire the best coach.”

Students staying at Burke are concerned with the risks of hiring a brand new coach and how this can affect their seasons. Many are concerned whether or not a coach will mix well with the team and won’t be able to know until they’ve already been hired, but Coach Hodges says to have faith in administration.

“For underclassmen that play varsity here at Burke, I would tell them to be patient and trust Mr. Williams to make a great hire. There are a lot of really good players who are coming back for the 2023 season that can help Burke make a serious run,” Hodges said.

Some student athletes are concerned about how this change will impact their future in their sport after high school. Staying at Burke means playing for an established program but playing for a new coach. Some think transferring will hurt their recruiting prospects, while others think it could help highlight their skills. Freshmen baseball player Kaleb Reichling is with the latter.

“Since I am a freshman, the college recruiting process has not started for me, yet, but I feel that I might get more attention because I will be starting at a brand new school,” Reichling said.

As an administrator with a different perspective, Mr. Williams disagrees.

“I think it certainly could hurt. At the same time, if you are talented and work hard, I think a college coach will find you. There are plenty of student-athletes that played for struggling programs that have gone on to earn college scholarships,” Williams said.

Although some student athletes and staff may have doubts about recruiting, Hodges thinks that making the move to Westview may help athlete’s chances of getting recruited to good schools.

“I believe that if anything, it [transferring to the new school] can actually enhance the recruiting avenue, as some student athletes will have a chance to play varsity sooner than they would have at other schools,” Hodges states.

With so many uncertainties, only time will tell how everything will work out. Coaches and athletes are looking forward to these changes and the new opportunities that will arise. Coach Ryan is prepared to work with the players and make them the best athletes they can be.

“These are very unique and exciting experiences that our student-athletes will have the opportunity to attain. One of the goals of our program is to help the student-athletes achieve their goals,” Coach Ryan said. “We will do everything in our power to help.”