ABILENE, Texas – Everyone knows that high school football is almost a religion in Texas – and all communities love their high school sports teams.

But do public schools really have to spend lavishly, and perhaps unnecessarily, on the teams and athletes?

In fiscal 2016-17, the Abilene, Texas school district spent $276,985.78 on food and travel for its various athletic teams.

Surprising, the district’s high school and middle school football teams were not the biggest expense. The most money – $56,311.90 – was spent on food and travel for the track teams. Football ($48,381) was second, followed by basketball ($36,531.35), tennis ($25,306.14), soccer ($25,145), golf ($24,897.96), baseball ($23,629.90), softball ($19,733), and numerous other sports with smaller amounts.

Some of the individual transactions were eye-opening, particularly for football.

On Sept. 16, 2016, for instance, the district spent $1,500 for an unstated football-related purpose.

On Sept. 23, there were charges for $1,500 and $1,939 for a road football game, with no details listed about the expenditures.

On Oct. 27, for a game in Keller, Texas, there were charges for $1,500 and $1,911. On Oct. 14, for a game in Lubbock, Texas, there were charges for $1,897, $1,400 and $212.

On Nov. 3, there were charges of $1,500 for a game in Keller and $1,400 for a game in Lubbock.

On Nov. 10, there were charges for $2,097, $1,750 and $245 for a playoff game in Lubbock. On Nov. 18, there were charges of $2,097, $1,820 and $525 for a playoff game in Midland.

On Nov. 25, there were charges for $2,000, $1,540 and $525 for a playoff game in Wichita Falls.

The list of the big charges goes on and on, for most of the school sports.

Abilene is located in West Texas, with few close neighboring cities, so some lengthy road trips are necessary for the school district’s teams to compete

Four of the most commonly listed destinations for road games on school spending documents were Lubbock, Wichita Falls, Midland and Keller. None of those cities are more than 2 1/2 hours away.

While those are significant road trips, and the students have to eat, are there less expensive options than piling dozens or hundreds of kids into a restaurant?

Could a parents’ group, or maybe school cooks, get together and prepare food in advance for distant trips, at much less expense?

Has anybody in the school district ever asked that question?