June 15, 2024

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JCCC To Eliminate Track To Save $250K; Will Rip Out Track

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Blake Koger’s opportunities after high school were limited. He didn’t have great grades, and he didn’t have a lot of money to pursue a college education.
He was recruited as a track and field athlete by a few small colleges, including Johnson County Community College, where he was a member of the 2004-2005 Cavalier track team.
“Running at JCCC allowed me to learn more about myself and what it means to put focused effort into whatever challenge came my way,” Koger said in a blog post.
JCCC leadership is shuttering the track program that Koger said changed his life. Koger and other JCCC track athletes created a website to attempt to save the program.
 “I try to keep an open mind, and I can’t pretend to know everything the administration at JCCC must deal with daily,” he said. “Maybe there are budgetary issues that aren’t well known…But why single out track and cross country programs? The cost savings can’t be that significant. How can local middle schools, high schools, other small colleges maintain these programs? What are we missing?”
Community college leadership made the decision to eliminate the JCCC track and field and cross country programs in April. JCCC athletes are entering the college’s final season of Cavalier track and field this semester.
David Lindstrom, JCCC Board of Trustees member, said cutting the program was a difficult decision.

“A majority of the sports are funded through student fees. And the student fees– we didn’t want to increase the mill levy. We didn’t want to increase tuition, and we didn’t want to increase student fees, because costs are going up just everywhere,” Lindstrom said.

JCCC revenues last year increased by 8.6 percent thanks to increased property values. In December, Randy Weber, JCCC Vice President of Student Success, told KSHB-TV that a rule change by the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference meant JCCC would need to spend an additional $250,000 to remain competitive, so officials decided to right-size the JCCC athletic department.

“We didn’t feel we had the resources to maintain that level of competitive balance for all sports,” Weber told the television station.

Community college leadership made the decision to eliminate the JCCC track and field and cross country programs in April.

In addition to shuttering its athletic programs, JCCC also will rip out its track, one of the only 400-meter outdoor tracks available for public use in the area. Lindstrom says college trustees learned that bringing the track up to ADA standards and making it competitive would require a $1 million-plus investment.

“When the track is removed it will be replaced with a more comprehensive event center that can be leased out and also utilized by our girls softball,” Lindstrom said.

JCCC is in the process of updating its facilities master plan. Lindstrom, a former NFL football player, said he was adamant that athletics not be overlooked in the process.

“We are spending some money also on upgrading the gym and some of the other facilities that athletes and students that participate in recreation will enjoy,” he said.

Dennis Batliner’s son was a member and coach of the JCCC track team. The Overland Park resident still has questions about the decision to nix the track program. He notes that Johnson County is the wealthiest junior college in Kansas, and the campus improvement program is set to invest more than $100 million in new buildings, despite projections that anticipate a slight decrease in the number of full-time students over the next 10 years.


“The answer to the ‘why’ of this decision appears to be that our community college favors buildings and facilities over people and experiences,” Batliner said.

The next meeting of the Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees will be at 5 p.m. on Jan. 18 at the college.

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