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Maricopa community colleges to eliminate football after 2018 season

(Flickr/Mesa Community College Athletics)
LISTEN: Ryan Felker, Mesa Community College Head Football Coach

PHOENIX — One of the largest community college districts in the nation announced Monday that it would eliminate football as a school-sponsored sport after the upcoming season.

The Maricopa County Community College District announced Mesa Community College, Scottsdale Community College, Glendale Community College and Phoenix College will get rid of football after the fall 2018 season.

No other sports will be affected by this decision.

The district said in a statement that it came to the decision due to “ongoing financial constraints.” Those challenges led to district officials prioritizing resources to “meet the changing educational needs of the community.”

Matt Hasson, a district spokesman, said the decision 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,” he said.

“As an essential resource to the community and businesses, MCCCD must be responsible for the financial resources it has been entrusted with.”

The move comes almost three years after the state removed all its funding from the district. The district lost $68 million total in state aid.

Football in the district cost $770,000 each year to operate, which equated to 20 percent of the district’s total athletics budget, and was responsible for more than 50 percent of related insurance costs.

The district said costs to maintain the schools’ football programs could exceed $20 million in “needed capital improvements and associated expenses.”

Ryan Felker, the head football coach at Mesa Community College, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Chad Benson that he believes this decision will ultimately affect enrollment and will cost the schools more money in the long-run.

“Ninety percent of the kids here wouldn’t be here if we didn’t recruit them,” he said. “It will affect the enrollment. The diversity of the campus will change dramatically.”

A task force that reviewed 10 schools’ athletics programs recommended the Maricopa County Community College District cut its schools’ football programs last year, citing funding issues.

The district was not the first in the nation to make this decision: Only 65 member colleges — out of 530 total — participating in the National Junior College Athletic Association sponsor football programs.

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