TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Pima Community College football may be ending, but some community members and alumni are hoping this is actually the beginning of a prosperous program.
A public forum about Aztec football was held at the PCC Administrative Offices in Tucson Monday, March 13. A conference room was filled with alumni, supporters, board members and city council members alike.
The talk about the program's future comes after last month's announcement by the Maricopa Community College District.
The district, which includes community colleges in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa and Glendale, said it will the football programs after the 2018 season.
That decision is putting a serious strain on PCC's plans.
Edgar Soto, PCC's dean of athletics, fitness and wellness, said that regardless of Maricopa's decision they might have still had to have a conversation about cuts.
"Maybe not about football," he said. "But we'd be talking within our athletics program - what do we need to do to reduce cost? If other areas of the college are being asked to reduce some cost and do some things budget wise, of course athletics is going to be also."
Soto said 25 percent of his athletic budget is dedicated by football and he's got 15 other programs under his watch.
Soto and PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert were at the forefront of Monday's forum, leading the discussion. Lambert recognized that football is not a money-maker for the college.
"I'm optimistic," he said. "But I know the challenges that are in front of them."
The task at hand is making Aztecs football a sustainable option.
Lambert was asked what it would take to keep the program by the audience. He listed several challenges.
First, will Pima even have enough opponents in their league? The loss of the four schools cuts the Western States League size in half, leaving only four college remaining -- Pima, Eastern Arizona, Arizona Western and Snow.
Second, does PCC have the fundraising to sustain the program? Lambert made it clear that help would need to come from outside donors.
Finally, Lambert questioned if the program can cope with the liability and risk of injuries, particularly with the lasting effects of concussions.
The decision is now up to the college's administration. Soto said there is no timetable for when that could come.
"This is a decision that they're not going to take lightly," he said. "I think they're going to do their homework They're going to find out all the information and they're going to make probably the best informed decision they can. I know they're not going to rush into anything."