We have been grateful for all the coverage this story has gotten over the last few months, but Roxie Hammill at The Pitch has written the best one to date. The article does a great job outlining the key points of this multi-faceted issue.
We highly encourage you read the full article here, if you haven’t already:
Additional thoughts we should point out
The article correctly points out that the $103 Million Facilities Master Plan had, for some time, included a new track complex where “by May, design consultants offered the possibility of relocating the track to the southwest corner of campus, closer to the cross-country course. Soccer and softball fields would replace the current track.”
Look at that amazing rendering. Clearly, we’d support this. The facility would be in closer proximity to the Cross Country course and would allow for efficient warm-up space for Track and Field athletes and even the completion of cross country meets to finish on the track, which is a great touch to what could be elite cross country races.
Likewise, the new track complex would be even closer to St. Thomas Aquinas (STA), who use the track as their own to train their dominating Track and Cross Country programs. The shocking thing here is that, from what we’ve heard, STA was open to the conversation to share in some of the costs of the facility, purchase the land from JCCC or collaborate on other means to rebuild or protect the track facility. JCCC administration would not even entertain those as options.
The Pitch even points out that there was little public notice or discussion on this decision by stating “the next mention of the track in JCCC Board of Trustee minutes is March 2017, when Randy Weber, vice president of student success and engagement, announced the program would close. Transcripts and minutes show no other back-and-forth about terminating the program, and there was no separate vote about the decision; it was considered as part of the larger building plan package.”
This is a sticking point for us and reflective of how this administration works in the shadows, supported by a Board of Trustees who are far too eager to rubber stamp these decisions, rather than acting as the check and balance they are elected to be. Our group submitted a Kansas Open Records Act (KORA) request for all documents and notes related to the decision. We requested:
All records related to the decision to cut Johnson County Community College’s (JCCC) Track and Field program and Cross Country program.
All records related to discussion of cutting other JCCC athletic programs.
All records related to the decision to remove the JCCC outdoor track and not renovate it nor relocate it.
All records of discussion and supporting documentation for JCCC’s public statement that changes in KJCCC athletic scholarship rules would require an additional $250,000 annual expense to the College’s athletic programs.
Quite frankly, what we see is the Administration and Board constantly engaging in group think. There’s hardly any discussion, little reasoning and certainly no evidence of any real strong opposition to cutting the program. The only documents of substance regarding the decision were mere bullets in someone’s talking points. JCCC leadership frequently make references to the idea that if the public does not show up to meetings to discuss budgets, programs, etc. – then that is essentially a sign of agreement or apathy which renders later opinions null and void.
I don’t think that’s how government should work. Do you? This is why we elect these people in the first place!
JCCC leadership has committed hundreds of millions in facilities plans, over $150 million in annual budget and over 60% of it is directly funded by the Johnson County taxpayer. Yet we get little say in how it’s managed.
Finally, I’m sickened by the way JCCC leadership portrays this issue as essentially just another ho-hum program decision made by the college. In the Pitch article, Greg Musil states “We have hundreds of programs… Every time you adjust one or eliminate one, if you’re going to have a specific agenda item for it — it just becomes pretty difficult to do.”
He makes it sound as if this isn’t a HISTORIC, SUCCESSFUL, 32-year, program chock-full of success stories and ties to the greater community! This isn’t just some club or random student organization – this is a significant program! It is arguably the oldest sport in the world, with immense socioeconomic reach and is the base of all other sports. It should be treated as the pillar of athletics it actually is.
The administration and board’s lack of vision, respect and understanding for what this program was and should continue to be, and both its tangible and intangible value to the college and community is truly shocking.
Read the Pitch article, read the KC Star article, the one on KMBZ, KSHB, Fox 4, the Sentinel and so much more… the public in this community needs to be holding JCCC leadership accountable and questioning their weak reasoning for closing this historic program.