Program Evolution and Decline (1989-present)
Although an officially approved BSA program, Varsity Scouting continued to face opposition. The validity of the program continued to be questioned. Supporters of Varsity Scouting found themselves having to fight tenaciously on a number of different occasions to preserve the program. The program survived each battle, but not without considerable change.

In 1989 a push was made to redefine Varsity Scouting as more of a patrol-based program within the Troop. Varsity Patrols for older Scouts pursuing athletic interests, and Venture Patrols for older Scouts pursuing outdoor high adventure were introduced, both having roots in LDS Scouting tradition. The connection between the sports-oriented Varsity Patrol and Varsity Scouting is obvious. The high- adventure Venture Patrols echoed the “Venture Explorer” concepts utilized by the Church prior to the development of Varsity Scouting. As mentioned earlier, Brasher had created a means of distinguishing the members of a Teachers Quorum from the members of the Priests Quorum by dividing the Explorer Posts into two groups, Venture Explorers and Ensign Explorers. These divisions were established with the intent of strengthening “quorum identity”. Due to the ensuing confusion with terminology, Varsity Patrols were eventually discontinued, but Venture Patrols remain a part of the official literature today.

In 1990, National dropped the Varsity Scout handbook from its inventory. About this same time, the position patches unique to Varsity Scouting were changed to look more like Boy Scout position patches.

In 2000, National replaced the Varsity Game Plan book and Activity Pin booklets with the “Team Program Features” program supplements.

In 2001, a new Varsity Scout Leader Guidebook is created by a committee of 17 Varsity Scouters. Paul M. Anderson served as Committee Chair; Joe C. Glasscock was the Professional Adviser. The Varsity Scout Guidebook is one of the few bright spots seen in a declining program. It is regarded by many Scouters to be the finest handbook for leaders currently available; superior in many respects even to the current Scoutmaster Handbook.

With the introduction of the new handbook, the requirements for earning the Varsity Letter were significantly weakened and a higher award, the Denali Award, was introduced.

Wood Badge for the 21st Century was introduced in conjunction with a newly revised training curriculum. The new Wood Badge displaced Varsity Scouting’s unique version of Wood Badge training. The new training curriculum did not include Varsity Leader Specific Training for well over a year. While the changes made to the BSA training curriculum are understood to be a step forward, it has adversely affected Varsity Scouting. The loss of Varsity Wood Badge has severely inhibited the development of district staffers who are aware of and actively support Varsity Scouting.

Through the many battles for survival, Varsity Scouting has endured, but significant compromises were made leaving a program that is today in many ways indistinguishable from Boy Scouting. Varsity Scouting survived in name, but not in spirit. Many of its defining qualities are now gone, and its effectiveness dramatically reduced. Consequentially, its relevance to today’s young men is in question.

It is not hard to imagine a day in the not too distant future when Varsity Scouting will be eliminated altogether. A multitude of dedicated Scouters have sacrificed greatly to develop, preserve, and deliver Varsity Scouting. If not in honor of their efforts, then for the good of the young men that can benefit from Scouting, a concerted effort should be made to analyze the current weaknesses of the program, allowing it to be revitalized, enabling it to “deliver the promise” once again.

The input offered by Darryl Alder, Robert Backman, Burton Brasher, Doug Brewer, Kip Buckner, Vaughn Featherstone, Alva Greene, Jack Haycock, Boyd Ivie, Gary Jones, Doug Larsen, Dale McClellan, Carl Mellor, Doug Muir, Ron Nyman, Merlin Russon, and Ross Taylor provided the necessary background required to assemble this brief history. That information along with the many hours of service they’ve offered young men over the years in the name of Scouting is greatly appreciated
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