Community colleges revive sports programs

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Members of the clay target shooting team at Mid Michigan College.

Mid Michigan College

Members of the clay target shooting team at Mid Michigan College.

Capital News Service 

LANSING — The revival of community college sports in Michigan is underway as more schools reinvigorate their programs.

Mid Michigan College is among them and is considering a wide range of improvements at its Harrison and Mt. Pleasant campuses.

It can be hard and expensive for community colleges to build and maintain athletic facilities, according to Brandy Johnson, the president of the Michigan Community College Association.

“These are not revenue generating for us,” she said of sports programs. “We are not the MSU basketball programs. In theory, you may be losing money.”

Currently, Mid Michigan is using high school facilities and rented spaces for its athletics, which Johnson calls “demoralizing.”

“Athletics really help students feel connected, whereas at four-year universities, there’s more natural ways to do that—through residential halls and clubs. With community colleges, it’s hard to get that level of engagement,” Johnson said.

The president of Mid Michigan, Tim Hood, said he sees a common denominator when he talks with other campus presidents.

“I don’t know of any colleges that are cutting back athletics, especially some of the smaller colleges — we all need more students and we’re always looking for ways to better serve students,” he said.

Mid Michigan just completed a major comprehensive master plan that identifies many potential areas for growth and improvements. This past year, it added a clay target shooting team and will soon revive men’s and women’s cross-country teams — and is talking about adding esports, which is a competitive form of video gaming.

 According to Hood, most of his athletic teams ranked in the top 10 to 20 teams in the nation in their respective collegiate divisions.

Montcalm Community College in Sidney and Greenville had a similar revival after nearly 40 years of no sports teams. Now it has teams including bowling, cross country, clay target shooting and volleyball.

The athletic director, Hunter Redman, said college officials are pleased with the positive impact of the additional athletic opportunities.

“It exceeded our expectations,” he said.

“We are excited for the buzz athletics is creating on our campus and in our community. We are seeing great recruits choosing Montcalm Community College,” Redman said. “While we are growing athletics, we are also supporting our strategic plan and growing enrollments.”

Johnson said the work ethic of athletic team competition helps participating students succeed throughout their college careers.

“It’s a great way to keep them focused,” she said. “The critical skills that it teaches are ones that are hard to do in the classroom.”

“It’s such a powerful motivator for students who are really passionate about these sports they play,” she said.

Johnson also joked that the friendly rivalries among community colleges are important.

“The rivalries are a really fun part of my job,” Johnson said. “Getting to see the smack talk between (campus) presidents is really fun to watch.”

Hood said with the progress that community colleges have made in athletics since the pandemic, they have one goal at the forefront of their mind.

“More students coming here for whatever good reasons—give us more students to serve and more ways to enhance everything else that we do,” he said.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Dec. 12, 2023, to clarify the status of Mid Michigan College’s plans.

Mid Michigan College President Tim Hood

Mid Michigan Community College

Mid Michigan College President Tim Hood

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