Cuts coming to Pima Athletics; severity still in question - Tucson News Now

Cuts coming to Pima Athletics; severity still in question

(Source: Tucson News Now) (Source: Tucson News Now)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Pima Community College will look to restructure its athletic department, after the board decided to accept the parameters recommended by the Chancellor.

At its governing board meeting Wednesday night, May 9, about 25 student-athletes, coaches, and supporters, stood at the microphone during the call to the audience and shared impactful stories of their connection to the Pima Aztecs program.

But did it have an impact on the board members?

In March, a public forum about Aztecs football was held at the PCC Administrative Offices (http://www.tucsonnewsnow.com/story/37709539/pcc-football-program-aztecs-ending-season-last-decision). The talk about the program's future came after an announcement in February by the Maricopa Community College District that it would cut its football programs after the 2018 season.

That decision put a serious strain on PCC's plans, as it affects scheduling and competition.

Aztecs athletes and coaches were surprised to learn the fallout would affect all Pima Community College sports. The board and Chancellor Lee Lambert announced they're taking a hard look at more than just the big-budget football program.

According to the FY2018 information released by the board, football accounts for about 16 percent of the entire athletics budget.

Chad Harrison, Associate Head Coach for Pima Track &Field, was surprised to learn his program was on the chopping block.

"It's shocking that they'd go down that path. IT's going to affect enrollment. More specifically, if you just think about those kids that don't have enough money to go to college, and they're only athletes," he said.

Harrison's said his athletes are his children, spending about 18 months with them during their time at Pima. He said that the college's athletes rely on sports to get their education.

"We're talking 381 athletes that are just going to have an excessive amount of free time."

That is, if the board follows through.

They voted Wednesday night to initiate a study.

"The Governing Board agreed to accept the parameters the Chancellor had recommended for his comprehensive review of Athletics," said Libby Howell with Pima Community College Media Relations.

Chancellor Lambert's review is focusing on two goals, according to the agenda item: Student success and expense reduction. His review says that multiple sports will need to be discontinued to meet these goals.

"The analysis and decision about how to restructure athletics will be guided by the following parameters: Long-term viability of each sport, interest level, competition opportunities/league viability, sustainable budget level for athletics, relative liability risk of sports offered, equitable use of student activity fee (allocation between athletics and other student activities), and maximize student opportunities support by the student activity fee," the agenda item explained.

It comes as other community colleges around the state make cuts to athletics, as well as Pima Community College announcing budget cuts in mid-April that included eliminating roughly six percent of its staff, equal to roughly 51 full-time positions, in addition to 10 instructional faculty and three administrative office positions.

"Instead of taking this - having 16 sports - as something that's a bad thing, we should wear it as a badge of honor. Hey, we can make this work and you guys should do what we're doing," said Pima's Head Football Coach Jim Monaco.

For Monaco, it was a sense of pride to watch others step to the microphone and praise the athletic program and its potential.

Yet, he lacks confidence that the football team will survive, and worries about cuts of other sports. He's as nervous as ever about football's future.

"Waiting to June for me is ridiculous. If you're going to kill this, do it right now," he said, talking about how he doesn't want to leave new recruits in the lurch.

The Chancellor will announce the decision at the next board meeting June 13.

"The goal of the assessment is to make a decision on the structure and offerings of the athletics program in time to begin implementation with the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, 2018. The implementation plan will be designed to minimize disruption to students and employees during the transition," the agenda stated.

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