They don’t play in nationally televised bowl games or championship tournaments that inspire betting pools in offices across America.
But athletic teams at community colleges,
especially those in rural areas, play a vital role in
attracting a cohort of students, enhancing diversity
geographically and otherwise, and helping to put
the “community” in community college.
Senior administrators and athletic directors
have challenges to overcome in terms of recruiting
students, building the needed housing space for
those coming from a distance and fundraising
to be able to offer at least modest scholarship aid.
Those at rural community colleges say these challenges are well worth overcoming.
“We may not have a Starbucks,” says Ken
Trzaska, president of Seward County Community
College (SCCC) in Liberal, Kansas, and a member of
the American Association of Community Colleges’
(AACC) Commission on Communications and
Marketing. “But we need to stay on a competitive
playing field by offering full scholarships and main-
taining our level of success. We need to maintain
a fine balance between athletics and academics,
which is why students are ultimately here.”
DIVERSITY AND ENGAGEMENT
Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colorado,
has 188 student-athletes in 10 sports: men’s and
women’s soccer, basketball golf and volleyball, and
men’s wrestling, baseball and softball.
In addition to recruiting those 188 students, the
athletic programs attract those dating athletes,
as well as plain old friends, says Marci Henry,
athletic director at Northeastern and president of
ATHLETIC PROGRAMS HELP PUT ‘COMMUNITY’
IN RURAL COMMUNITY COLLEGES.
BY ED FINKEL