By: Armando Harmon
These are gloomy days for the football program at Pima Community College. The fate of football is up in the air, now that the Maricopa Community Colleges have decided to shut down their programs after this upcoming season.
Due to decreased funding, Scottsdale, Glendale, Phoenix, and Mesa Community College football programs are all going away after the 2019 season. These four schools are in the same conference as Pima. In the conference there are only four schools remaining, including Pima.
On March 12 the Board of Governors held a Community Forum for the public to inform them about what is going on and how Pima intends to handle this situation. There was no decision made nor actions that were taken at this meeting. During the session the public was allowed to give suggestions on how to resolve this issue and keep football here at Pima.
Head Chancellor Lee Lambert and Dean of Athletics, Fitness and Wellness Edgar Soto presented both benefits and challenges with the football program remaining at the institution.
Keeping the program alive gives access to education for a diverse and underprivileged student body and contributes to the overall enrollment rate at PCC. With every player that commits to Pima, they end up bringing a friend. Positive role models are provided for these kids to guide them and to teach them discipline on and off the field.
The biggest challenge the Board is facing is how Pima will work its operational cost and budget realities. Fewer teams in the conference means that Pima will have to travel out of state to either California or East Texas to compete and means more travel costs for the budget that is braking
“There is cost associated in a new conference,” Said Soto. “Those are the challenges we are going to have to face.”
Reconstructing a stable football program that affords the the competitive opportunity within budgetary constraints is a huge issue the board will have to figure out.
The issue of CTE and brain damage was raised as well, and how keeping football can be a liability in the long run. Pima will have to manage any related to insurance cost from some sort of injuries and acquiring expensive protective equipment to prevent any possible lawsuit. A number of lawsuits have been directed at colleges and even youth football groups because of concussions.
“Football is about one third of the athletics budget,” said Lambert. “Something is going to have to give if the board decides to keep the football. “The pie is shrinking with JUCO programs across the country and sadly to say, it’s going to get smaller.”
After the Board’s presentation, it was the public’s turn to speak.
From alumni to coaches that have had taken a part in Pima football from 2001 had a chance for any suggestions to save the program. Community members also had an opportunity to share their thoughts.spoke on their love for football in Southern Arizona and what this means to them.
“We have to keep football alive as long as possible,:” Said community member, Richard Hernandez. “I was one of the coaches that was anti-football when football first came to Pima, but I have seen the good it does for the kids.”
With the semester winding down and Spring football already starting, the community as a whole must stay positive and hope for the best.
Last season, Head Coach Jim Monaco was able to help six players continue their football dreams and all six students sighed to Division I schools. The overall record of last season wasn’t something that we would hope for but for Monaco he won just by impacting his players lives in a positive way.
Earlier in the year, Pima signed 51 recruits and 21 are from southern Arizona . Football will increase the enrollment rate up and ending the program will bring it down.
“I’m a little bit surprised on how negative the chancellor was,” Said Monaco. “I just believe that we need an opportunity to overcome the challenge, give us time to make it work and if it can’t work then it can’t work.”
“It’s going to be hard for the kids that I have recruited, but if this doesn’t work out I have to give these kids an opportunity to go somewhere else.”
“We may or may not have another forum of some sort and then I’m hoping I can bring a recommendation to the board, hopefully no later than the end of this fiscal year (June 30).” said Lambert.