Dean of Athletics, Fitness and Wellness Edgar Soto and I met the media and community members June 14 to discuss the College’s decision to cease its football program after the 2018 season.
Edgar had announced his recommendation at the PCC Governing Board’s June 13 meeting. I approved the recommendation, as did the College’s Executive Leadership Team.
Edgar recommended moving from a $2.6 million Athletics budget to $1.9 million, which would require ending the football program and at least two other sports. The men’s and women’s golf and tennis teams are currently being evaluated.
At the media conference, I placed our decision into context. The College is in the second year of a three-year initiative to reduce expenses by a total of $15 million. Athletics is not immune from the cuts resulting from the initiative, which is necessitated by declines in enrollment and state laws limiting our expenditures.
When the football program was created in 2000, it was to be fiscally self-supporting and would not require College funding from property taxes and student tuition. Initially, the program received some outside support, but soon the College needed to direct student fees to cover the costs of the program. The revenue from these fees is dependent on enrollment. The revenue is unable to completely subsidize the program, as our enrollment, while stabilizing, is far from its level in the early 2000s, or its Great Recession peak.
I pointed out that increasing enrollment will continue to be a challenge for PCC, as it is for community colleges across the U.S. A “birth dearth” — a decline in the 18-24 demographic that traditionally comprises a large part of community college enrollment – will be an ongoing obstacle at PCC and nationwide. The some 4,000 higher education institutions in the U.S. will be increasing their efforts to enroll students, and thanks to the growth of online education, we will be in competition for students with institutions both near us and hundreds of miles away.
Edgar noted that he considered other factors in reaching a decision, including competition opportunities and conference viability, Title IX implications and other liabilities. PCC will create scholarships for football, golf and tennis athletes who might have come to the PCC through sports. As Edgar put it, these students’ pathway to college might be academics instead of athletics, but our goal will be the same – to see them through to a college degree.
That goal resonates with me personally. Like hundreds of thousands of boys, I grew up with football and dreamed of playing on Sunday. I played in high school, and if not for an injury, would have taken the field in college. Thankfully, I received a grant and was able to attend college.
It hurts deeply to alter the dreams of the more than 100 young men, and the dedicated coaches and support staff, who have invested so much in PCC football. To the student-athletes affected by our decision, the College pledges to do all it can so they can reap the live-changing benefits inherent in a college education.