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What really happened to GRCC’s football program?

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By Austin Metz
Editor in Chief

Eighty years of football at GRCC is gone. Beginning next fall, Grand Rapids Community College will move forward without a football team.

The argument is over and the decision has been made, football is gone.

In case this is new to you, this was the announcement made by GRCC President Steven Ender on January 9, 2012. Following a perfect 11-0 season, Ender cited the cost, travel issues and violations of Title IX as reasons behind the decision. Title IX states that a school’s student body male-to-female ratio has to equal the student athlete male-to-female ratio and GRCC’s ratio didn’t meet the regulations.

Athletic Director Charles Wells said in “Canceled football program violated 5 NJCAA bylaws” on page 1, that canceling football has been discussed since 1985.

If this is the case, the question then is, “Why now?” If this decision has been discussed since 1985 because of money issues and travel, what made this year different?

Let’s start with three issues that haven’t changed.

First, every year the team has cost the college money. There just weren’t enough fans attending or enough general revenue to cover the cost of the team.

Second, every year the college has had to pull players out of class to travel by bus to North Dakota, Georgia or Iowa. No traveling by plane for this team – way too costly.

And third, every year since 1972, the program has forced GRCC to be in violation of Title IX.

Every year.

Then the question is, what made this year different from the rest?

The answer appears to be two-fold.

The first difference is following this past season, the school found out that it would lose its head coach. Because Coach Tony Annese moved to Ferris State University, the college was not forced to fire him or the majority of the assistant coaches within the program.

President Ender said in a story posted at www.thecollegiatelive.com, that most assistant coaches followed Annese to Ferris and those who remained with the school were employed in other capacities. Problem solved.

The second difference appears slightly more problematic. How about the threat that the program allegedly owed money to Beckett Property Management Company for football players’ housing?

Faculty Association President Fred van Hartesveldt seemed to think this played a bigger role in canceling the program.

“When Beckett threatened to sue, it lead the school to scrutinize the program and interview everyone in the Fieldhouse ” van Hartesveldt said. “Ender didn’t start looking into seriously canceling the team until the threat of the Beckett lawsuit.”

Whether an actual lawsuit was filed or not is not clear.

“To me it appears the school is using Title IX and money issues as justification for the canceling of the program,” van Hartesveldt said. “Ender is the one who ended the program and it wasn’t done in regards to the budget.”

Both Ender and Athletic Director Wells were quoted as saying the Beckett issue had nothing to do with canceling the program.

So, with all that said, what really happened?

Was the program causing the school problems? Yes. Was it creating these same issues for many years? The answer is also yes.

It may not be crystal clear, but it appears the player housing problem caused more of a stir than we were lead to believe.

Maybe even enough of a stir to cancel the program.