Nov. 5, 2012, 1:25 p.m.

10_20_Today_bug

A numbers game:

Since losing athletics in 1992, programs have been back at the college for 10 years.

The year 2012 marks not only the 20th anniversary of Laramie County Community College cutting the athletics programs, but also the 10th anniversary year of the college rebuilding the program from the ground up-to what now includes teams that compete for Region IX athletic titles each year.

Sport's program canceled due to budget issues

In 1992, the LCCC Board of Trustees announced no reconciliation was possible between the college’s sports programs and the budget issues. But these were not the college’s only concerns because the characters of the recruited athletes had been questioned in the years leading up to the decision after off court incidents caused the men’s basketball team to forfeit games.

The decision divorced the college from its national championship-winning golf program as well as its men’s and women’s basketball programs; however, rodeo and equestrian athletics were not part of the athletic cuts.

After nearly a decade without athletics, LCCC’s Associated Student Government conducted a survey asking students whether they would be willing to pay higher fees to fund athletic programs and which programs they would like to be offered.

2001: LCCC sports make comeback

From the results of this survey, the ASG learned about 76 percent of students would favor paying more to have athletic teams, so with the support from students and the community, LCCC’s 2001 Board of Trustees ultimately included athletics within the budget again.

Student fees were raised $2 a credit hour to help pay for some of the costs of restarting and maintaining sports programs. Today the fee is $4.50 a credit hour.

In 2001, the college announced Registrar Joe Nonsegregated would also assume athletic director duties, and LCCC looked to local coaches to take charge of building the programs.

coaches_then_and_now

Geri Wagner, who had coached volleyball at East High School, was selected as the volleyball coach along with two more East High School coaches, Costa Standees for men’s soccer coach and Jim Gardner for women’s soccer.

The men’s basketball program was put in the hands of Quient Higgins, a former University of Wyoming basketball player taking his first-ever coaching position. Higgins coached only through 2003, and in September 2003 faced charges of domestic violence.

Roddell Davis stepped in as head basketball coach before current coach and athletic director Jason Ficca took over in 2007.

Tsandes coached through 2003 before Adam Buseck took over the program through 2006 and left the position vacant after transferring to the University of Denver.

A Cheyenne Central High School assistant coach, Juston Taylor, led the team to a 13–6–2 season as interim head coach before the current head coach, Vince Gibson, arrived in 2008.

Wagner coached for LCCC until 2007 when Travis Ward took over until 2011. Currently, Darren Buckner is approaching the end of his second season with the Golden Eagles’ volleyball team.

In 2002, the college offered men’s basketball and women’s volleyball through Region IX of the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association; however, men’s and women’s soccer started their first years as coed club team.

Current LCCC women’s soccer coach, and the only coach remaining from the reinstitution of athletics at the college, Gardner said it was not easy to start a program from scratch, but he said he believed the sports programs at the two-year college level are important to Cheyenne and the state’s communities.

Gardner took on responsibilities coaching LCCC’s club team with former men’s soccer coach Tsandes. Since the transition from club to a NJCAA Division I team, Gardner has led the Golden Eagles’ women’s soccer program to well-more than 100 wins and multiple Region IX and District B titles in his tenure as head coach.

Recruiting locally built community

Gardner said he believed because LCCC tends to recruit some athletes locally, small college sports become community events. He said many students whom he has recruited from Cheyenne’s East High School and Central High School have friends, former teachers and relatives attend games regularly. Gardner added that college athletics provide a sense of community and give students a connection to the college.

Gardner said community college athletics can be a very suitable alternative to four-year programs.

“Junior college has a specific niche and provides more opportunity,” Gardner said. He said students often are given a chance to play earlier and do not face intense year-round training schedules. Academically, Gardner said student-athletes might feel more comfortable at a community college because of class sizes, and many are provided scholarship opportunities.

Gardner said one complaint the community had with athletics before 1992 was the athletes were not always great students who “tore up the town”; however, he said he believed in recent years student athletes at the college have done well to balance the demands of being a college student as well as a college athlete.

Gardner said, “Being a student-athlete is a different proposal” because these students must plan to finish classwork while working around sports schedules and attending mandatory study tables.

Coach Gardner said his favorite aspect of coaching was to see the student athletes succeed and grow. As head coach, Gardner said he sees his players grow not only on the field but also off the field.

He said another overlooked aspect is the international students who play collegiate sports are not only provided an opportunity at LCCC, but they also provide insight to other cultures around the world to which their teammates may not otherwise be exposed. He said local athletes and international athletes will often form lifelong bonds of friendship and keep in touch after they leave LCCC.

Gardner said overall he believed athletics are important to the college, its student athletes and the community, but he said he believed it would be nice to see LCCC expand its athletic program to include even more athletics someday.


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