The football programs at four community colleges in the Valley will be sacked next year amid financial pressure.
The Maricopa County Community College District announced Monday that it will eliminate football after the upcoming 2018 season as an "MCCCD sponsored sport."
That means Phoenix College, Scottsdale Community College, Mesa Community College and Glendale Community College will play one final season before the programs are discontinued next year.
“The decision to eliminate the football programs at Maricopa Community Colleges was not taken lightly. Although this is a disappointment to our student-athletes, coaching staff, and football fans, it is ultimately the right decision for the district and the long-term success of students,” Matt Hasson, district communications director, said in a statement.
Hasson said the district arrived at the decision because of financial issues caused by flat enrollment and a lack of state funding. Capital improvements needed to maintain the football programs could exceed $20 million, the district said in a statement.
The football program makes up 20 percent of the total MCCCD athletic budget and represents more than 50 percent of the total insurance costs, according to the district.
“As an essential resource to the community and businesses, MCCCD must be responsible for the financial resources it has been entrusted with,” said Hasson.
The news of the impending shutdown was a blow to former players like Broc Gullett.
"It's sad they're not looking at individual lives. They're looking at dollars and cents from their ivory towers," said Gullett, a former offensive lineman at Glendale Community College.
Coming out of high school, Gullett said he was too small to be recruited by four-year schools, and the prospect of taking on massive student loan debt made college seem like a financial impossibility. But while at GCC, he said he put on about 30 pounds of muscle and earned a full scholarship to the University of South Dakota.
Gullett is now a practicing attorney in Detroit.
"None of that would have been possible without GCC," he said. Eliminating the football program, he said, will deprive many other student-athletes the opportunity to make something of themselves.
Across the country, the number of football programs offered at community colleges is in decline. Of the 530 member colleges participating in the National Junior College Athletic Association, only 65 sponsor football programs, Hasson said.
Last May, a task force recommended eliminating the football program at MCCCD.
The panel reviewed all 16 athletic programs across the 10 schools.
MCCCD said it will honor the scholarships of student-athletes through the spring 2019 semester.
No other sports programs will be impacted by the decision, the district said.
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