In May 2011, after the third consecutive failed attempt to continue a 1-percent income tax levy that generated $1.7 million in revenue per year, the Northridge High School athletics department lost all of its funding from the school district.
With students preparing to leave the school district, athletic boosters president Wayne Howard presented the school board with a plan that would keep extracurricular activities alive at Northridge.
Howard became athletics director not long after submitting his proposal to the board and steered Northridge through its financial crisis, utilizing a recycling program to help limit high pay-to-participate fees.
Three years later, with the Vikings' athletics department on better financial footing, Howard is exiting his post as athletics director after his contract was not renewed. His final day is Monday, June 30.
"Wayne really was the glue for that era," said Denise Shedloski, who was an assistant coach in the boys soccer and track and field programs. "I can remember when my son (2013 graduate Alex Shedloski) was in the eighth grade, and how much things have changed from now until then.
"When Wayne took over, (Northridge) didn't have the best reputation as far as sportsmanship, and a lot of teams didn't want to play us. He helped to change that culture and that's a big compliment to his skills, his choices and his views on how sports should be."
Replacing Howard is John Morgan, who was an assistant principal at Central Crossing the past five years after serving as the athletics director at Bexley for six years. Morgan is scheduled to start Aug. 1.
"It's been a lot of work, but I wanted to make sure our students had the same opportunities that my kids had," said Howard, whose daughter, Megan, graduated from Northridge in 2008 and his son, Justin, graduated in 2011. "I think John Morgan was a great fit because he has an athletics background and he knows what the position entails."
Northridge's pay-to-participate fees were $500 per sport for the 2011-12 school year. The next school year, the fees were lowered to $400 for a student's first sport, $250 for the second sport and $200 for the third.
"Wayne was instrumental in getting us through a period when we had full pay-to-(participate fees) and he really did a lot for the (school) district," superintendent Chris M. Briggs said. "The (athletics director) position has evolved to where we needed an administrator, and Wayne is not certified as an administrator.
"I respect what Wayne has done and he did great work with the district. He kept us afloat and he has a great skill-set, but that (athletics director) position was different then than what it currently is."
Track and field coach Jeff Dingess, a 1983 Northridge graduate, was hired by Howard in 2013.
"Wayne stepped up when we needed him most with all of the struggles and the threat of losing sports," said Dingess, who also is an assistant coach with the football team. "He had his two kids go through the system and his heart was really in it for all of the programs.
"He was so helpful and supportive of the kids and their families. He also had time for me personally, and I will really miss him."
Football coach Darby Riley was hired by Howard in November 2011.
"Wayne is the big reason we still have athletics at the school," Riley said. "He did everything that he could to keep (the programs) going and keep them moving forward. We really hate to see him go."
Northridge principal Amy Anderson said Howard didn't just help the school's student-athletes.
"When Wayne stood up in front of the board three years ago, he had a plan along with the athletic boosters and the band boosters to keep things going at no cost to the district," Anderson said. "We did lose some kids to other school districts, but there were many kids who stayed here because he said we could make things work, and we did.
"I think Wayne is a man of great integrity and, as a member of our staff, his thoughts and goals were for the kids first. He has a big heart and will be sorely missed at Northridge."