California state may ax sports program

California’s budget crunch is threatening the future of community college athletics.

Because of a deficit in the billions of dollars, there is a 30 percent chance sports at community colleges could be eliminated, saving SAC about $1.3 million and potentially saving the state $55 million, said Peter Hardash, vice chancellor of fiscal services and business affairs.

“If the state eliminates funding for athletic programs, it is expected that those programs will no longer be available as regular credit instructional offerings,” Hardash said.

Talks of eliminating programs have festered since Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB70, raising tuition at community colleges in California to $36 a unit and causing schools to make a five percent reduction in classes and programs next year.

SAC does not generate any revenue from any of its sports. The proceeds from the games that charge entrance fees go to pay the lease on the football stadium, which is owned by the city of Santa Ana, Dean of Athletics Avie Bridges said.

“The budget has shrunk every year,” Bridges said.

In a period of three years, SAC lost five sports — men’s cross country, track, swimming, golf and women’s tennis.

Operational expenses for running the athletic program are divided into two categories: the diversified budget and the supply budget. The diversified budget pays for entry fees, officiating fees, and meals for when teams are on the road, and it has shrunk in the last three years from $112,000 to $72,000. The supply budget pays for team equipment and uniforms and has shrunk from $120,000 to $78,000.

“Every meeting we’ve had in the last year has really been talking about … not getting enough money from Sacramento,” Rancho Santiago Community College District Trustee David Chapel said. “But what we haven’t really done is talked about how we can better spend the money we do receive.”

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Many students use the community college experience to hone their skills and academics before transferring to a university, but one look at the stands at a top-ranked Dons baseball game indicates that the support the team receives is from family and close friends, Bridges said.

“The students that are typically at a community college are students that either academically didn’t have what they needed to immediately transfer to a four-year college or athletically were not seriously being recruited out of high school for a scholarship to play at the next level,” Bridges said.

SAC sports began with football in 1916 one year after the school opened. The college added basketball in 1920.  Baseball followed in 1924.

C.J. Wilson, pitcher for the Texas Rangers; David Buehler, kicker for the Dallas Cowboys; Kris Medlen, pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, and Heath Bell, an All Star relief pitcher for the San Diego Padres, all played for the Dons.

“I came here for baseball, so if baseball is cut, I probably wouldn’t be here right now,” freshman infielder Daniel Miranda said.

“We’re hoping it’s just a scare tactic,” Bridges said about the politics behind the budget cut talks.

BY THE NUMBERS:

  • 4 Dons alumni playing professional baseball and football
  • 5 – Number of sports teams that have been suspended
  • $1.3 – Million SAC saves if state suspends college athletics


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