State Fair Community College hosted a third public forum Thursday morning to discuss the possible addition of four sports to the college.
If approved by the SFCC Board of Trustees, the college would add men’s and women’s soccer, baseball and softball to the college’s athletic program.
“We are holding this meeting to make sure the college and community is well informed of our intentions to add these athletic programs,” said Dr. Brent Bates, vice president for education and student support services. “We are also trying to gauge the support that is there to add these sports.
“So far we have had a tremendous positive support for them,” Bates said after the meeting. “ I know that (Athletic Director) Darren (Pannier) has received numerous calls of inquiry about if this is going to happen and many others offering support when and if it does.”
The discussion about adding additional sports came about as part of the college’s Campus Strategic Plan as a way to increase enrollment and student involvement at the college.
“Two years ago the college saw record enrollment,” Bates said. “Since that time, our numbers have been down.
“Based on our Strategic Planning Committee we need to see a 5 percent enrollment increase each year for the next five years if we are going to reach the goal established by the committee.”
Bates explained that colleges receive their funding from three primary sources: state appropriations, mill levy taxes, and tuition and fees, each traditionally contributing about one-third to the budget.
Over the last 10 to 15 years, those numbers have been out of balance with state appropriations falling well behind the levels they once were.
“The only way a college can increase the amount of money generated by a mill levy is with a voter-approved tax increase,” Bates explained. “What that means is that the only source of new revenue for a college is through tuition and fees.”
Currently those two areas make up 57 percent of SFCC’s funding.
Bates said he and Pannier were given their “marching orders” from President Dr. Joanna Anderson to find a way to add some additional athletic programs to the college which could increase net revenues without taking away money from other programs.
“The timing for this seems right,” Bates said. “We lost two sports at SFCC 14 years ago and there is community interest and support out there right now.”
For Pannier, athletics and extra-curricular programs can be the face of the college.
“It’s been my dream since I was hired here to add sports,” Pannier said. “I came from a private university where we had 17 programs including our band and music and I have always been passionate about seeing the stands filled with students and community supporting athletic programs.
“Adding four sports won’t increase our enrollment to the record levels of two years ago, but it will help,” Pannier added.
The college has had a number of athletic programs in the past including baseball, volleyball, soccer, golf and tennis. Currently, the college has both men’s and women’s basketball teams.
The decision to add the four proposed sports was based on a number of considerations.
“The most important factor we considered was that we have a large pool of local talent that we can draw from,” Bates said. “We want to be competitive with local talent.”
The school is hoping to field teams with 40 athletes in the baseball program, 32 on the softball team and 32 members on both the men’s and women’s soccer teams.
SFCC will offer six scholarships for each of the four programs. Those scholarships will not include a housing stipend.
“We know there will be costs to this,” Bates said. “In our planning though we have budgeted the expenses high and revenues low to begin.”
Some of those expenses include the cost of coaches, equipment, travel and insurance.
Three coaching positions will be needed: one for baseball, one for softball and one soccer coach who will be responsible for both teams.
The teams will play soccer on the existing field located to the west of the Fred E. Davis Multipurpose Center. Baseball will be played at Dey Field at Liberty Park and softball will be played at Vansell Field, part of Liberty Park.
“We know we have some maintenance work to do to get the soccer fields up to standards, but we have been in discussion with the (Sedalia) Parks and Recreation Department about using their facilities,” Bates said. “Because they are installing turf at Dey Field there will be less rain-outs and the college baseball schedule starts in February and so we will be able to get games in before the high schools need to use the field.”
Both Bates and Pannier expressed the fact that they are confident of community support to help offset some of the costs that might be incurred.
Pannier has established a tentative start of Fall 2016 for soccer and Spring 2017 for the baseball and softball programs.
“The prospect of this is really incredible for all of us, especially those of us in the Kaysinger Conference ” Smithton Athletic Director Brandon Wallace said by phone Thursday afternoon. “I think this is a great way for our students to be able to play at the next level, which many of them are capable of doing.”
Wallace, who coached volleyball at SFCC for a season in 2008, considers the opportunity to start at a smaller school to be a benefit for local athletes.
“This is a tremendous way to allow some of our students to extend their opportunity to play ball as well as continuing their education,” Wallace added. “Hopefully, they will be able to transfer to a four-year college to complete their degree.”
Pannier commented at the meeting that most college athletes have higher completion rates because of the demands to maintain their grade point averages as well as the monitoring by the athletic departments.
At the meeting, Sara Nail, president of the Faculty Association, asked how the college could afford to add these programs while other departments were in need of additional teaching staff.
“Some of us feel we are in dire need of more full-time faculty,” Nail said. “I just don’t see how adding four sports cannot take away from other programs and departments.”
Anderson explained that the strategic committee had looked at a number of possibilities for the athletic programs before proceeding with this proposal.
“We have done a great deal of research and support as to what athletics brings to a college,” Anderson said. “We want SFCC to be a campus that is a hub of activity for our students and the community.
“What athletics bring is vibrancy to the school,” Anderson added. “We feel we can be competitive in these areas and want to explore our options but not at the expense of other programs.”
The Board of Trustees is scheduled to hear a presentation regarding the addition of the sports at its Dec. 15 meeting.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484