On Feb. 5 the MCCCD school district announced they would be cutting all of their football programs after the upcoming 2018 season. Included in the four programs cut was Scottsdale Community College, Glendale Community College, Phoenix College and our own Mesa Community College. After receiving a report from a task force the district cited financial concerns and academic underperformance as their reasons for cutting the athletic program. Maricopa listed several reasons for cutting the program. The first being a slowdown in enrollment and the cutting of state funds to community colleges.
Maricopa also cited financial concerns related to the football program. Football makes up 20 percent of the total athletic budget and over 50 percent of the insurance costs. Maricopa also cited academic reasons for cutting the football program. Football had the lowest academic performance of any MCCCD sports. Football student-athletes had the lowest GPA and the lowest loan repayment rate. Football players also had the highest dropout rates and the lowest rates of course completion. This is a disastrous loss for the sports community here in Mesa and across the Valley.
Community College football programs are often used to develop athletes who aren’t ready for Division 1 competition. Without this avenue student-athletes who would not ordinarily be able to pay for their education will now be kept on the outside of the system. For athletes who may have been undersized, underdeveloped or simply did not have the grades for a Division I school community college offered an option for education and advancement. Of course, not all athletes use community college as just a stepping stone or second choice.
Some athletes rely on programs like community colleges to obtain the opportunities they would not have had otherwise. The ending of the T-birds program will be a tragic loss to the athletics communities in Arizona. High school athletes often consider community colleges as a viable option for education and continuing athletics. Without these four programs, there are only three junior college teams left in the state; Eastern Arizona College, Arizona Western College, and Pima College. A number of MCC students have been recruited by Division I and Division II colleges over the years and without this pathway fewer athletes than before will be able to find their opportunity.
With the loss of the football program comes the loss of scholarships along with it. Losing this avenue for continuing education is a detrimental blow to student-athletes who could not afford tuition costs otherwise. The district was clear that they would honor scholarships that have already been awarded through the spring 2019 semester.
The act of honoring scholarships is less a show of good faith and more a contractual obligation. Revoking scholarships would not only be callous it would also be unethical. Scholarships represent a bond between an athlete and their program that shouldn’t be affected by administrative issues. All in all, the loss of MCCCD football programs will have a tragic effect on the football culture of Arizona.