What if the reason for axing the football program at Mesa Community College (MCC) was made by individuals who misunderstand Junior College (JuCo) athletics?
In 2017, the governing board of Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) made the decision to remove four football programs.
The MCCCD gave reasoning behind this decision as an issue of funding.
They have never made themselves available for a confirmatory interview.
Head Coach Ryan Felker and Athletic Director John Mulhern of MCC, expressed how unfortunate taking football away removes an opportunity for so many athletes to earn an academic scholarship to a four-year school.
When student athletes leave before graduating as a sophomore, this not looked at as a success for
the MCCCD. The college district uses determining statistics to monitor current state of the colleges, but a common situation of a early progressing college athlete hurts those.
“One of the greatest things we can do is not have them come back in the spring as a freshman because then they moved on,” said Mulhern.
“One of the things that gets a little sideways in athletics is our general enrollment [for entire school] has dropped. We are replacing the student athletes that move on. It is not like we have 100 student athletes and lose one now we are down to 99. No, we replace him because that what athletics does,” Mulhern continued.
Mulhern recalled a story of walking with an administrator and running into a football athlete, Gleson Sprewell, who had recently received a full ride scholarship to University of Houston.
In this conversation Mulhern asked Sprewell if he was to return for spring and the answer was no.
“the administrator is kind of looking at me and I said well why would he… But statistically he has been labeled a failure,” said Mulhern.
“That’s the thing, we place 100 percent of our sophomores that have done everything they are supposed to do in class. Whether its NAIA [National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics], Division I, Division II, 1-AA [FCS]. We find them somewhere to play. If they want to continue playing football and they make it through this program and do everything they are supposed to do we place them. [We] put their names on the board and we don’t stop until it’s done,” said Felker
Coach Felker refers to it as human capital and believes student athletes successes were not considered enough during the decision process to remove football from four Maricopa schools.
“[we have] probably about 8.5 million dollars in scholarships in last six seasons, 88 guys to division one, 149 to four-year schools,” said Felker.
Director Mulhern refers to these athletes which have an opportunity as a qualifier.
“If they’re a qualifier and they come here and perform academically and athletically, they move on,” said Mulhern. “because they know that athletics is their way to something better… they may fight through a lot of obstacles that are in front of them because they know what happens if they hang in there,” Mulhern continues.
Mulhern and Felker couldn’t give a definite reason to pinpoint the decision to end football but both showed passion towards the well-being of athletes.
Both appeared hurt when thinking of MCC students losing the opportunity of a better future with the decision to remove football.