By Cerwin D. Haynes of the Athletics Department
A Response to the Campus New Editorial
We here at East Los Angeles College Athletics would like to take a few moments to respond to an op-ed piece in the December 6th edition of the Campus News. Before we start, there’s a few things we’d like to point out:
- We appreciate our students using their voice to express their opinions and exercise their journalistic aspirations.
- We are pleased that we have students who take the time and effort to follow our teams.
- We are grateful for vehicles such as the ELAC Campus News, which gives students a platform to build their journalism skills and gain invaluable experience in a profession where experience is everything.
With all of that said, we want to take this opportunity to speak because we know how hard our collective coaching staffs, office staff and student athletes work to be at their best. To that end, there were some issues raised in that December 6th op-ed that we believe would benefit from a deeper understanding of community college athletics and the nuances of student-athlete life. For the sake of brevity, we would like to respectfully contend what we believe are the three most major issues discussed; we believe said issues do not accurately reflect upon our goals and operations as a department.
The first contention is using major NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) divison-1 universities as a base of comparison for notoriety and popularity. Our goal – as is the goal of nearly every community or junior college athletics program – is to expose and direct our hard-working student athletes to scholarship opportunities at the university/four-year level. This differs greatly from the goals of top-flight, prestigious, NCAA Division-I programs such as USC, Alabama, Duke, Kentucky and Oregon to name a few; it is historically from those schools were student athletes matriculate onto professional athletic careers. With that said, it’s fair to call into question whether a university, even those aforementioned, should be purely judged by how many athletes go pro. According to NCAA.org, fewer than two percent of NCAA student-athletes go on to become professional athletes.
One should also consider the following when looking at university-level athletics:
- the percentages of community college student athletes that transfer to a Division-I university vary depending on sport and male/female demographics. The highest transfer percentage for men’s sports is Baseball at 20.8%. For women, it’s Basketball at 7.8%. This means that most community college athletes do not transfer to the top-level of college competition.
- The NCAA actually has three levels of collegiate competition (Division-I is the top level). And many four-year schools participate in the smaller NAIA – National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, which itself has two levels of athletic competition.
The next contention we’ll raise is the issue of scouting. Colleges do not have scouting departments – professional sports do. In college, coaches are responsible for recruiting high school student-athletes to attend their school. Whereas a scout simply gathers intel on an athlete to disperse within an organization, recruiting involves scouting plus contacting targeted high-school and transfer eligible student athletes to convince them to play for ELAC. With recruiting, you are competing against other community colleges to enroll student athletes to a team: the better the student-athlete, the more competition there will be for his or her talents. There are a variety of factors that go into convincing a student to play for your school that go far beyond scouting.
The last point of contention we’ll speak on is judging a community college program on the number of professional athletes it produces. As we stated in our first point of contention, our goal is to expose and direct our hard-working student athletes to scholarship opportunities at the university/four-year. We also mentioned the miniscule percentage of NCAA student-athletes that become professional athletes. We believe it’s not fair to judge us – or any other community college athletics’ program – on such a metric. Instead, allow us to list several of our recently matriculated student athletes that now play on the four-year level:
- CeeJay French-Love, a tight-end, played football at ELAC in 2016. He accepted a scholarship offer to Arizona State University, a PAC-12 school.
- Sione Kava, a defensive tackle who played football at ELAC in 2017, also accepted a PAC-12 scholarship offer – to the University of Oregon. He played in eight games as junior for the Ducks in 2018, and just finished his senior season as his team defeated the University of Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl Game last month.
- Defensive lineman Benjamin Key just accepted an offer to play for Mizzou – the University of Missouri. Mizzou is in the same conference as Alabama and NCAA football champion LSU.
- Teammate and defensive end Daniel Robledo also received an offer from Missouri.
- Another teammate, defensive tackle John Tuitupou, has committed to the University of South Florida – a member of the American Athletic Conference.
- Frank Bertz, former guard for ELAC men’s basketball, accepted a scholarship offer in 2018 to play for the University of Central Florida. UCF is a member of the American Athletic Conference, a prominent grouping of Division-1 schools that compete with basketball tradition-rich universities such as Duke and Kentucky.
- Sticking with men’s basketball: Roderick “RJ” Williams played on the 2017-18 team and now features prominently on the Boise State basketball team. There’s even talk that Williams may be drafted into the NBA!
- Also: Rodney Agee and Alec Hickman transferred onto San Jose State and Fresno State, respectively. While not part of the Pac-12 Conference, these schools routinely play USC, UCLA and the like.
- Most people by now know the history-making story of 2019 ELAC grad Toni Harris. A defensive back for the 2018 football team, she because the first woman to accept a non-kicking, positional scholarship from a four-year university. She just completed her junior season at Central Methodist University, and her dream is to become the first woman to play in the NFL.
There is one criticism the op-ed mentions that we do agree with: ELAC Athletics has not created a concerted and sustained effort to promote athletic events on campus. In a survey conducted during the final Inter-Club Council meeting of Spring 2019, students responded (overwhelmingly) that they are not aware when games and events take place during the school year.
We are beginning to change that.
For the first time in school history, Athletics has hired a staffer to primarily handle Sports Information duties – which include promoting games and team events on campus. We’ve had to start small: you’ll see flyers posted on ASU-approved announcement boards around campus and streaming in the Student Center. We’ve begun to use the digital marquee boards to announce on-campus games and meets, and we’ve begun utilizing email blasts to students and employees. We’ve created a new Twitter account (@AthleticsELAC) to discuss all things Athletics, and we’ve boosted the content and activity on our website: www.elacathletics.com. Like I said, we’re just beginning to get started – we plan on creating outreach events so the campus and nearby community can get to know our teams and form a connection with them (i.e. generate school spirit). And we plan to partner with ASU to find ways to involve student clubs with athletic events while offering clubs opportunities to fundraise.
We hope that this response sheds light on the essentials of community college athletics and what our goals are (along with a few of our success stories). As we approach the start of the Spring semester, we welcome our students to reach out and learn more about our teams and our department.
We are going to post an article on the ELAC Athletics website extolling our success and worth. We would love to send you a condensed, edited version to print in an upcoming edition of the Campus News. We want our campus to know there are lots of great things going on with us right now, and you can help us!
#HuskiesLife #GOEAST #EastLosAthletics