The possibility of Mesa Community College losing its football program became a reality on Monday after much debate and click of send on an email.
The program will have a final year of competition in 2018, which was first reported by ArizonaVarsity.com, along with Scottsdale Community College, Glendale Community College and Phoenix College.
“It happened real fast,” one MCC official said.
The decision comes two days before national signing day when several area football players were expected to announce they were going to become Thunderbirds.
“It’s a shame,” Mountain View coach Mike Fell said. “I love having JC programs so close and accessible for young athletes. There are no (Division III) schools nearby for these football players to go.
“Basically, there will be fewer graduates playing college football.”
It has been known since May that the Maricopa County Community Colleges District (MCCCD) was exploring the idea of eliminating football from the athletic department for various reasons, including the financial burden it brought in large part because of the insurance policy.
MCCCD spokesman Matt Hasson said the other sponsored sports are safe from having a similar fate.
“All of the sports will continue moving forward,” Hasson said.
MyNewsMesa.com obtained the email sent out from the MCCCD this morning:
Dear College Community,
Maricopa County Community Colleges District (MCCCD) will eliminate football following the upcoming 2018 season as a MCCCD sponsored sport.
Ongoing financial constraints, including leveling off of enrollment growth at a majority of the colleges as well as the zeroing out of state support for MCCCD has led to the need for the district to look at the prioritization of resources to ensure we continue to meet the changing educational needs of the community.
In May 2017, the Maricopa Priorities Athletic Task Force submitted a list of recommendations to District Administration regarding the MCCCD athletic programs. These recommendations focused on student success, effective allocation of resources, and long-term compliance and sustainability. Their exhaustive study discovered that among all athletic programs, football was the lowest performing against key student success metrics including dropout rates, student-athlete GPAs, and course completion. Football also had the highest student loan default rate.
These recommendations, coupled with the elimination of financial investment from the state in community college education, forced very difficult conversations about our ability to serve the growing education needs of our community, especially those for whom access is already a challenge.
The football program makes up 20 percent of the total MCCCD athletic budget and is responsible for more than 50 percent of related insurance costs. Ongoing costs to maintain the football programs could exceed $20 million in needed capital improvements and associated expenses.
Football programs will be eliminated at Mesa Community College, Scottsdale Community College, Glendale Community College, and Phoenix College following the Fall 2018 season. We will honor the scholarships of our players through the Spring 2019 semester. No other sports programs will be impacted by this decision.
MCC athletic director John Mulhern said he was not allowed to comment when contacted.
Hasson said once the task force’s findings came to light, several options were explored before deciding on the football programs.
“We have quite a few programs that were struggling in our district. If we can’t make improvements and get the technology updated, get our professors the materials they need then our entire student population is hurt.
It wasn’t an easy decision and we looked at all of our options. There are 530 NJCAA schools in the country and there is a reason only 65 have football programs. It doesn’t bring in revenue and it was clearly cost effective.”
Two players from area schools — wide receiver Josh Daniels (Red Mountain), linebacker Desmond Etheridge (Red Mountain) — and two Mesa residents from other schools — linebacker Camari Mitchell (Tempe), defensive lineman Steven Itaaehau (Mesquite) — are sophomores on next year’s teams so they can play their final year with the Thunderbirds if they decide to stay with the program.
“Many JUCO kids are on their own in every sense of the word,” said James Daniel, Josh’s father and former MCC soccer player (1986-1987). “Sports practice, maintaining eligibility, keeping up grades and work study programs, offer the structure that keep some of these kids moving forward out of the environments designed to impede and destroy futures.”
— Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send human interest story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.