Opinions differ on MCCC sports fees

MCCC had a successful athletic program in the 1960s and 1970s.

It featured the likes of former NBA Player James McElroy, golf pro Frank McAuliffe and many other successful athletes.

However, MCCC decided to disband the athletic program after the spring of 1980 because of the financial burden and the lack of athletic facilities to host sporting events.

“We were borrowing and stealing facilities to have practices and to have competitions and that was very difficult with scheduling,” MCCC board member Linda Lauer said.

A recent survey of students conducted by MCCC asked for thoughts on athletics, but the students gave contrasting answers to two questions.

One question asked how likely is it that students would support a student activity fee for the purpose of funding a sports program at MCCC. Of students who responded, 51.2 percent said either “Somewhat Unlikely” or “Very unlikely;”  22.5 percent said they were not sure.

The second question asked if a student activity fee were proposed, what amount would students be willing to pay per semester for a sports program. On this question, 53.7 percent responded with either $15, $20, or $30, while 46.3 percent said “None.”

Linda Lauer, who has been a supporter of student athletics since she was elected to the board in 2008, helped write the questions. She said she was dissatisfied with how they were worded, but thought the question asking what amount students would pay was clearer.

Randy Daniels, MCCC’s vice president of student and information affairs, looked at the first question more closely and came to the conclusion that the majority of MCCC students would not support an athletic fee.

He said the results of the survey were a small piece of the puzzle when deciding whether to reinstate athletics at MCCC.

For the most part, MCCC board members appear to oppose returning athletics to MCCC.

Board member Joe Bellino played on the MCCC baseball team in 1977-78. Four of his teammates played Division I baseball and another played professionally.

“I loved it, it was fantastic, but we dropped sports because we were broke,” Bellino said. “I don’t think it’s fair to charge all the students so 150 can play sports.”

MCCC Board member Mary Kay Thayer agreed.

“I know so many of the students are going to school with barely enough and between work and school, they’re not even able to participate, whether in sports or being there to support sports,” Thayer said.

Lauer said athletics affects more than just the athletes.

“There are a lot of people in the community that want sports back at the college and they are willing to help,” Lauer said.

Lauer said she didn’t think a student fee would be the hurdle that some people make it out to be.

“You’re paying more (for tuition) but you are not getting anything more, here you pay more and get something more for it, that’s the big difference,” Lauer said.

With MCCC’s student enrollment at 4,624, a $10-$25 fee could raise $46,240 to $115,600 for athletics.

“The student activity fee would initially be used to support any students wanting to start a sports club with the goal of eventually developing into a varsity athletic program,” Lauer said.    

Lauer said one of the main reasons she is interested in reinstating sports at MCCC is because “it strengthens the connection between the college and the community.”

“I’ve been either a coach or athlete all of my life myself, so I’m very very interested in sports and I know the wonderful benefits kids can get from participating in athletics, especially a sports team,” Lauer said.

MCCC Volleyball Club coach Scott Barbe said there are many ways his team could use the extra money.

He pointed to things as simple as getting new volleyballs and nets and as expensive as being able to participate in more tournaments.

Barbe said the money that has been given to the MCCC Volleyball Club is half of what the high school volleyball clubs that he had coached for received.

One way an athletic fee could be established is by the MCCC student government making a petition in an attempt to get the board member’s to adopt the policy.

Holly Self, the President of MCCC’s Student Government said she would be in favor of an athletic fee if there was enough interest, but she has not seen any.

“They want hard evidence that adding this would, A, not make people mad, which it would and, B, actually get participants,” Self said.

Many of the high school principals in Monroe County disagree with the MCCC board.

Ida’s High School Principal Tom Dykstra and Jefferson High School Principal David Vensel both used the word “reasonable,” when describing their thoughts about a $10 student fee for students.

Vensel added that he would never want a student fee to take away opportunities for other students, but he didn’t think a $10 fee would do that.

Dundee principal Bryan Schroeder did not want to comment on a fee because he said he did not know MCCC’s budget and student’s interest in sports, but he had nothing but positive things to say about his experiences in college athletics.

“The experiences and friendships and the leadership that I was able to attain there helped me a great deal to get into the position I’m in now,” Schroeder said.

The board members have taken action to show their support towards athletics.

They started an Executive Sports Committee which has researched what other schools are doing, looked into interest among MCCC students, plus trying to find ways to finance the current athletic clubs.

In 2009, all seven trustees pledged $500 towards the athletic clubs.  MCCC gives each club $100.

Thayer said she put in the first $500 and the rest of the board members followed.

She said she made the contribution because she wanted to see how much interest there was.

“That was my way of checking to see how many groups would come forward to start an intramural,” Thayer said.

She came to the conclusion that not many students wanted athletics because she has heard from no MCCC students on this subject.  She said she still would like to look at more information regarding MCCC athletics.

Bellino said he fears that in the next five years MCCC will continue to face funding cuts by the state, which will force the college into raising tuition.

“I would love to have athletics at Monroe County Community College, but right now the school can’t afford it,” Bellino said. “But if some sugar daddy or some philanthropist wants to come give us a hundred grand a year for five years to start sports or some kind of seed money I would be all for it.”

Athletics at MCCC is something most people want, but it appears to be a matter of how much they think it is worth. Of the 28 community colleges in Michigan, 68 percent think it is worth the investment.


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