A special thank you to the KC Star and Mará Rose Williams for their work on this story. I’d like to take some time here to breakdown some key points in the article made by JCCC Spokesperson Chris Gray.
"Gray said the volume of community use on the track compared to other college fields...was a small part of the decision to eliminate track and field."
I’ll tell you this, I was out there yesterday (Sunday 11/14) in 17-degree weather and there were other people using that track. IN 17 DEGREE WEATHER. Not to mention one of the best Track & Field programs in the state of Kansas, St. Thomas Aquinas High School, uses it for their track team.
So, we aren’t buying the "volume of use" argument here. If they plan to relocate softball and soccer fields to this location and charge a gate fee for public events as described, have they done studies to see how much use they would generate and how much revenue would actually go to the school from said gate fees? There are an abundance of soccer and softball fields in the Johnson County area, in addition to the great facilities both of those JCCC programs ALREADY HAVE. How much use would one more field of each get on the JCCC campus? What studies have they done to support this decision? Did they study the possibility of adding a gate and concession to the track facility and utilizing this for local and state track events and the financial benefit that would have to the college? If not, why?
"Gray cited a recent bylaws change by Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference to increase scholarship allowances.
He said that because student activity fees fund athletic scholarships, raising scholarship amounts would mean increasing fees on the college’s 20,000 students. Gray said the school didn’t want to raise those fees, which go to support its eight athletic programs, including track, as well as other student clubs and activities."
What isn't mentioned here is that JCCC, a member of said Jayhawk conference, voted IN FAVOR of this scholarship increase. So to clarify, JCCC voted for a scholarship increase then is trying to use that as a reason to shutter these programs? (See this post as well for a timeline)
Also, the question needs to be asked: did JCCC leadership consider simply reducing the overall operating budget of the programs? Did they look at other successful JuCo track & XC programs and research what their operating budgets were?
This change in the bylaws was made in large part to allow scholarship money for room & board. JCCC does not have on-campus housing. They do not plan on raising their tuition costs, so an increase in the Student Activity fee is actually not needed to stay competitive. The only way they would need more money for scholarships is if their tuition costs increased. However, they have stated that their intent is to keep tuition at its current levels.
The whole idea that this is a budget issue when there is a $102 million dollar master plan for new campus facilities seems to be an odd argument. The college can spend over $100 million on buildings but can’t figure out a way to fund an athletic program that costs less than .5% of said master plan? And their plan to tear up the track and build new facilities in its place also costs money. Where is that money coming from? Have they compared the long-term costs of keeping the track vs. the ongoing maintenance costs of the new facilities?
Let’s all keep in mind that this is a community college, with program funding coming from taxpayer and student dollars. The college is not run as a profit center. The programs are meant to enhance the learning experience and extend the college's brand into the community.
What's frustrating is that these decisions are being made without public notice or input, by individuals who are not doing their due diligence to support their decisions. We, as a general public, owe it to ourselves to push back on decisions that are made without first consulting the individuals they are paid to represent.
JCCC has a board meeting this Thursday, 11/18 at 5pm. Let’s plan to be there and show our support for these programs and what it has meant to so many people over the years.
There are some simple questions that need to be answered:
Does JCCC value athletics? If so, why did they choose to shutter track and xc over other programs? Why have any athletic programs at all if it is purely about dollars?