Published on 12/10/2020.
Last spring, due to a bleak budgetary forecast brought on primarily by the COVID-19 pandemic, CR made the difficult decision to suspend CR’s football program. At the time, President Dr. Keith Flamer explained that, “while this was a difficult but necessary decision to make, it was the most efficient way to reduce costs while at the same time making sure the college is fiscally solvent…and better positioned to financially support the sports we are preserving.”
Now, Dr. Flamer is exploring the feasibility of resuming football in the fall of 2022. The reinstatement relies on a number of modifications and improvements to the program, ones that the college believes will elevate academics and prioritize the “student” part of “student athlete”.
The new football staff will be directed to encourage student athlete accountability in academic programs, and there will be an emphasis on graduation rates, grade point averages (GPAs), and retention rates from semester to semester.
All of this is in line with the considerable strides the athletics department has made in recent years. The department often exceeds district averages both in retention and academic success (as measured by GPA) and, this past year, the college had 48 graduates from athletics, which was a 38% increase from the previous year. Reinstatement of the football program relies on continuing the upward trend.
To help improve the program, the administration has hired a consultant who will conduct a needs assessment, develop a framework for improving student athlete achievement outcomes, and provide recommendations based on findings.
Additionally, in an effort to more closely align with CR’s overarching mission to “partner with the community to contribute to the economic vitality and lifelong learning needs of our service area,” the college will no longer be recruiting student athletes from non-contiguous states, meaning only those from California, Oregon, Nevada and Arizona. The hope is that most will be recruited from district high schools.
Dr. Flamer explains that he agreed to consider bringing the football program back because he believes athletics can be an important part of the higher educational experience. “I believe that our athletic programs instill student athletes with good habits of fitness, competitiveness, drive, and discipline. Clearly, what they learn about teamwork, individual responsibility, determination and goal-oriented tasks follow them into their future,” he says.
Athletics Director Bob Brown is also hopeful. “The athletic department greatly appreciates the open dialogue and initial approval of planning towards the reinstatement of the football program. We look forward to building on the recent academic success of our athletic teams and to adding football back into that fold,” he says.
Brown also appreciates how much the local community would like to see college football return to Humboldt. “There has always been a strong base of community support for CR athletics,” he says. That’s a good thing because, of course, the decision is also financial.”
The football program requires funding above and beyond typical program expenses per student because of the cost of the head coach, staff outside of instruction, and some travel. Much of this can be made up through increased enrollments; however, the College of the Redwoods Foundation is committed to raising $250,000 from the community to cover costs of football program staff and upgrading the intercollegiate weight room.
“Northern California has an exceptionally long history of supporting football. CR Football provides community building and an opportunity for our local student athletes to stay here and pursue their athletic passion while earning a high quality college education,” said Marty Coelho, Executive Director of College Advancement and the CR Foundation.
Dr. Flamer believes “that reinstating football can be compatible and complementary to our academic endeavors for several reasons. If our student athletes are supported and maintain higher retention and graduation rates than the general student body, other academic programs would likely be enhanced by the addition of football players. A well-managed football program can bring in a net positive annual revenue and a great deal more "value-added" to the College.”