By Casey Michie
City College’s looming budget crisis has now taken its toll on the athletics department with the dismantling of both the cross country and track and field teams this past spring.
The administration cited low participation rates as a contributing factor to the cuts, according to former athletes familiar with the decision. However, this reasoning is controversial as participation on both teams was not influenced by a lack of interest, but instead a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Former team captain of the track and field team Enzo Greco states that “[The administration] wants to say they are cutting for participation, however during the pre-2020 season leading up to the pandemic, we actually grew the team a lot.” Greco notes that the increased participation numbers were primarily attributed to student-athletes recruiting new members from local Bay Area high schools.
The notion of a rising interest in the teams is supported by a large number of freshman athletes, an indicator of a growing program. A news release from the athletic department regarding the 2019 season states that “with a large freshman presence on the team, [the track and field program] should be strong coming back into their second season.”
This second season, however, was cut short due to guidelines implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19. And now, any ambitions of returning the program back into its former self have been slashed by the Administration.
While tough decisions must undoubtedly be made to balance a severe budget deficit, the decision to cut the programs jeopardizes another concern the administration and Board of Trustees have been grappling with at recent meetings: low enrollment numbers at City College.
Freshman athlete on the former track and field team Conner Kincaid, notes that the program was the only reason he chose to attend City College. “My track coach in high school talked highly of [City College Coach] Bianchi and the team here. So, I chose not to attend my local community college in Castro Valley, and instead decided to commute to San Francisco City College to be a part of the program,” Kincaid states.
Former coach of both teams Nick Torres, notes that while it is unclear how the cuts will directly affect enrollment, it will no longer be a draw for athletes looking to compete after high school. “The cuts affect incoming high school track and cross country students.” Torres said. “Since most of our students are local, many of them will stop running track and cross country after high school.”
The cuts have also adversely affected current athletes. Janice Conley, a former track and field athlete notes “I have been running track since I was young; it was my dream to pursue track and become a pro. I was devastated when I found out the team was cut because the program was my stepping stone to a four-year school.”
“The 2020 CCSF track team was a rapidly growing program that allowed students to represent the school in athletics and also provided a community for those who were looking for one.” Greco said. “The team trained together, competed together, studied together, spent time together outside of school. Many bonds and friendships have been formed through this program, and it was a great disappointment when the team received the news. We all hope that in the future, there is a return of the program for others to experience.”