Community colleges may get football

Published: Friday, January 27, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 26, 2006 at 11:49 p.m.
Forget the 'Noles, the 'Canes and the Gators. How about a gridiron clash between the lads from Manatee Community College and the squad from Polk Community College?
That's impossible right now, since Florida law bars the state's 28 community colleges from fielding a football team, though all other athletics are allowed.
Rep. Bob Henriquez, D-Tampa, a high school football coach, is hoping to change that law. House Bill 505, unanimously approved by a committee on Thursday, would allow community colleges to start a football team.
Henriquez said he'd been unable to figure out why football was banned from community colleges.
Henriquez hoped the bill might allow some high school students who don't have the talent or grades to play football at a Division I school to stay in the state and earn a degree.
"The long-term goal for me would be to provide opportunity and access to some kids to further their academic careers and end up graduating from college in the state of Florida," he said.
There are 28 community colleges in Florida and 25 of them have some intercollegiate sports, competing under the auspices of the Florida Community College Activities Association.
Henriquez suggested that community colleges could act as a "feeder system" for the state's brawny Division I programs. And Rep. Pat Patterson, R-DeLand, offered the first suggestion for a nickname, saying that the Santa Fe Community College Geckos would be an apt name for a team playing near the Florida Gators.
House Speaker Allan Bense said Thursday he was open to the proposal.
"I think we should be careful that we begin spending millions on football programs at community colleges," Bense said. "But, by the same token, if it helps generate some revenues and keeps some of our students here in Florida as well, then I'm going to look at it."
Charles F. Smith, administrative coordinator for the Florida Community College Activities Association, estimated startup costs for a new program between $176,000 and $212,000.
Budgets for the existing 68 junior college programs overseen by the NJCAA ranged from $90,000 to $632,650 in 2004, Smith said.
Former state Rep. James L. Watt, a trustee at Palm Beach Community College, joined Henriquez to add Florida to 17 other states who now have junior college football programs. All but California come under the National Junior College Athletic Association that sanctions 73 programs nationally and conducts a playoff.
Watt said not all the Florida schools would want to add football, but that at least 10 schools would have to start programs to have a viable, affordable schedule.
He predicted that adding football would spark enrollment at those schools.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
SFCC president says not to expect football there.

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