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COC’s strong reputation in athletics affects the budget

Posted: August 21, 2013 9:09 p.m.
Updated: August 21, 2013 9:09 p.m.
Through fundraising and sponsorship, College of the Canyons athletics to overcome a 30 percent cut in funding since 2010. Through fundraising and sponsorship, College of the Canyons athletics to overcome a 30 percent cut in funding since 2010.
Through fundraising and sponsorship, College of the Canyons athletics to overcome a 30 percent cut in funding since 2010.

It’s no secret that there are certain limitations when it comes to running athletic programs at a community college.

Students are almost exclusively commuters to the campus, and many are using the school as a means to transfer to a four-year university.

“Absolutely, traditionally community college athletic events are not well attended. Certainly not to the level of a four-year school,” said College of the Canyons athletic director Chuck Lyon. “There’s a lot of reasons for that.

“For the normal student at any (community) college for that matter, it’s not the same school experience that they experience at the four-year level.”

And, of course, College of the Canyons hasn’t been shielded from the downturn in the economy, either.

“We’ve been cut. I’m sitting here doing budget stuff and I can tell you that the difference in our budget from 2010 till now is a 30 percent cut. That’s quite a bit.”

Surprisingly, though, many coaches seem not to have noticed.

“I haven’t,” said softball head coach John Wissmath. “What happens, sometimes, you see a little decrease in one avenue and another avenue it picked up.”

Lyon points to the college’s athletic tradition for why coaches have taken the cuts in stride.

“I know that (Chancellor Dianne Van Hook) is committed to athletics. We don’t use excuses, we get the job done. When the coaches say they haven’t felt the cuts, it’s because they’re doing a better job of dealing with the cuts. Their focus is, ‘How do I keep my program at the level it’s at?’”

So how do coaches at College of the Canyons go about maintaining that success?

The answer lies in a combination of areas.

“The fan base is key, absolutely. If we have a lot of support in your community, it starts with the local sports here in Valencia and in the Santa Clarita Valley. It’s huge. Plus, you get some in the valley that with (local newspapers) getting the fan base out there it helps tremendously for us to go, ‘I read about you in the paper and we’d love to sponsor you. I like what you’re doing,” said women’s basketball coach Greg Herrick.

And gaining that fan base means a community college has to literally live up to its name and successfully integrating itself within the community.

“That’s where when people donate or buy ads or whatever they do, it’s not because they’re getting anything in return,” Lyon said. “They’re doing it because they are donating to community activities. We fall very much in line with the high schools in that regard. They’re community based and they have a little more support than we do because they’re younger, but we’re very similar.”

With the 30 percent in cuts Lyons referred to, fundraising has emerged as an almost necessary avenue for teams over recent years.

“It’s not easy. That’s in my mind that the toughest job that we do is creating ways to bring funds to the college, to our programs,” Lyon said. “I’m not going to say I’m great at it, I don’t know that I’m even good at it. I think I am, but again, because we’re a community college and not a (USC), we don’t have a booster program. It’s every man for himself. It’s every program for itself. We do athletic fundraising that benefits all but as a rule, every program is responsible for their own fundraising.”

And that’s where choices have to be made.

The school pays for certain expenditures, like buses and meals for trips to places like Orange County.

But overnight stays are the responsibility of each program, and lodging can get expensive.

There are signs that finances within the athletic department itself are picking up, though.

This year, according to Lyon, the college has increased the athletic budget so that teams will travel on buses rather than vans and cars.

“It’s a step up. It’s a huge step up for our athletic program,” Lyon said. “That’s one of the best things I’ve seen in a long time here — a positive move toward doing things right for athletics from a college point of view.”

In addition to keeping players safer and limiting liability, the buses also add a little more prestige to the Cougars, Wissmath said.

“It’s huge for the coaches not to have to drive to the events,” he said. “It makes you feel pretty good. When you see other colleges pull up to your place in a bus it looks pretty good.”

There are definitely limitations for College of the Canyons as it tries to maintain an athletic program with a stellar reputation.

But those within the department agree COC is among the best programs they’ve seen in the state, and Lyon is optimistic that things will continue on that path — and in doing so he hopes the entire school sees a benefit.

“If we can get our funding and classes back, now we’re on the right track,” he said. “Now we can recruit more student athletes, feel good about it, get them in the classes. That, to me, is success — and I’m seeing that ... For me, we’re going to follow the general student body when it comes to how good we can be. I think you’re seeing a lot of improvement in our facilities ... I would rather see us increase our classes and the rest will come. If you build it, they will come. If you build it, we’ll get the athletes.”



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