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Boosting school spirit

J. Sargeant Reynolds may join the list of schools with sports teams.

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Print this page by Gary Robertson

J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond is thinking about fielding sports teams, and perhaps even adopting a mascot.

It’s all part of the changing times at community colleges in Virginia, as they move closer to the model of four-year institutions.

Thomas Hollins Jr., vice president of student affairs at J. Sargeant Reynolds, says a task force is scheduled to present a report on the feasibility of sports teams in September.

Meanwhile, he says, a lot of students and faculty are excited about the idea. “It has generated a buzz,” Hollins says with a laugh. “If we are able to put together a business plan, we see athletics as not only engaging the students, but we are cautiously optimistic that it will engage the community.”

Glenn DuBois, chancellor of the Virginia Community College System, says he generally supports institutions that want to start sports teams. But he has one unbendable rule: “They will not bring to me a student athletic fee” to support the programs, which is the case at most four-year institutions.

If Reynolds moves ahead with sports teams, Hollins says, it will play other members of the National Junior College Athletic Association in Virginia and in the mid-Atlantic region.

Several sports are up for consideration, but there is one notable exception. “Football is not on the table,” Hollins says. “We know it would be cost prohibitive.”

While the sports task force is at work, a separate group is discussing a possible mascot. Steve Vehorn, assistant director of public relations, says if a mascot is created, it would become part of the college’s branding.
He says many things have to be considered in thinking about a mascot. “How scary will it be? How big? Does it have to do gymnastic tricks? Will it go out to meet children? Is it worth the resources?”

So far, Vehorn says, the mascot idea has been well received in focus groups.

J. Sargeant Reynolds is only the latest Virginia community college to join the trend of community colleges interested in fielding athletic teams. Patrick Henry Community College in Martinsville took the plunge when it joined the National Junior College Athletic Association in 2006.

Patrick Henry’s teams play junior college and community college teams from throughout the region, as well as the junior varsity teams of four-year institutions.  “For the college, it has given us an identity,” says Christopher Parker, the college’s athletic director. “The student body has embraced our teams.”

Today, the college has eight sports teams. The men’s sports are baseball, soccer, basketball and golf. The women also play basketball, soccer and golf but substitute softball for baseball.

The teams have attracted athletes from other states and other countries. Patrick Henry’s teams are called the Patriots, and their mascot is the Patrick Henry Community College Patriot.

A recent study indicated that the sports program, supported by private funds, has an annual economic impact in the community of about $1 million. 

Since Patrick Henry started its sports program, Parker, who also serves as director of women’s sports for Region 10 of the National Junior College Athletic Administration, has greeted a stream of community college representatives coming to campus to discuss how the program operates.

Parker says the list of community colleges with sports teams now includes Wytheville Community College, Danville Community College, Rappahannock Community College, Northern Virginia Community College and Tidewater Community College. 

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