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NW-SCC athletes deserve better treatment

Published 7:59am Saturday, March 26, 2011

Earlier this week Northwest Shoals Community College announced it would suspend its athletic program indefinitely. The reason behind suspending the program is cuts in funding from the state.

NWSCC says it received about $715,000 from the state the past couple of years. The school will not get this money for the 2011-12 academic year — combining that with 3 percent proration puts the school in financial crisis.

NWSCC projects it will save roughly $600,000 per year by cutting the athletic program. It is a move the school took to ensure the quality of its educational programs.

While NWSCC is a school first and should focus on academics before athletics, this move is tough on athletes.

The athletes, who include a handful from Franklin County, have the option of finding a new school to play for. That will be easier said than done.

The sophomores who are talented enough to earn a scholarship at a four-year institution have probably received their offers already.

The freshmen and high school seniors are in a lurch since other institutions are finishing up the recruiting process and probably have few slots available for the NWSCC athletes.

If the athletes can’t find a new school, NWSCC said it would honor their scholarships as long as they remain academically eligible.

It is nice that NWSCC will honor the scholarships, but many of these athletes want to compete. If they didn’t, they would not have signed athletic scholarships.

Many of these athletes’ best shots at finding a new program will be with another junior college, but given the recent announcements by NWSCC and Bevill State it would be understandable if they were a little leery of signing with another JUCO program.

What will happen if these players sign somewhere else only to be notified during the summer that their new school is also cutting its athletic program?

In the end many gifted athletes will more than likely have their careers cut short by a cost saving measure.

It is a shame that NWSCC could not find a way to phase out the athletic program over the course of a few years. It could honor the scholarships the current athletes have signed, allowed them to finish their careers and end the athletic program in two years when there are no longer any scholarship players.

That solution has another benefit. If the money comes in to restart the programs, all NWSCC has to do is begin recruiting again. By completely shutting down the athletic program, starting it up again will be difficult and costly — something that could negate the advantage of shutting down athletics to begin with.

Hopefully everything will work out well for the athletes and NWSCC, but this decision might cause more harm than good in the long run.

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