Shanty Hogan is up there somewhere, crying. The former Phoenix College football coach passed away on the final day of 2005 and now, 12 years later, he would be saddened to see what is happening to his once-proud program.
Phoenix College is one of four junior colleges that will be dropping their football programs after the 2018 season, according to an announcement released on Monday by the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD).
Shanty would likely have been in mourning anyhow, since the Bears haven’t won more than five games in any one season in the past six years, going winless in two of those seasons and averaging just two wins a season over that span.
That’s cause for clinical depression. But this… this is sudden death.
Some of us still remember the glory days of Phoenix College football, when Hogan spent 16 years building the program into a national power. Thomas “Shanty” Hogan started his coaching career as a basketball coach at Bisbee High School in 1948, but didn’t become a household name until he took over the PC football program in 1959.
Once he got to Phoenix College, Hogan won four bowl games and a national championship in 1964, the same year he was named NCAA Coach of the Year. He finished his run with the Bears with a 118-39-5 record and was inducted into the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame in 1980.
To get an idea of his impact on the PC program, think about what Frank Kush meant to the Arizona State football program during his 22 years leading the Sun Devils — the same time period, in fact, that Hogan was taking care of business at PC.
And now Shanty’s once-proud program is headed for extinction, along with those at Scottsdale Community College, Mesa CC, and Glendale CC. The MCCCD issued a statement on Monday that indicated the 2018 season will likely be the last for all four colleges.
“The decision to eliminate the football programs at Maricopa Community Colleges was not taken lightly,” the district’s communication director, Matt Hasson, said in the statement. “Although this is a disappointment to our student-athletes, coaching staff, and football fans, it is ultimately the right decision for the district and the long-term success of students.”
Translation: There’s not enough money to go around.
Football, the district points out, makes up 20 percent of the total athletic budget, and half of the entire insurance costs can be attributed to the football program. That’s become a major liability since enrollments have leveled off and state funding has been cut.
Junior/community college football has always provided either a stepping stone to the four-year programs, or a landing spot for those players who might never possess the talent to play at the Division I level but want to continue playing the sport after high school. For many, it’s a lifeline while they continue to develop their skills or get their grades up to be able to qualify for NCAA acceptance.
Despite the fact that a task force recommended back in May that the football programs be eliminated, it’s still hard for players and coaches to accept. On the same day the announcement was made, Scottsdale Community College’s head coach, Doug Madoski, reached for his twitter account to do some damage control.
His tweet said, in part: “With today’s “announcement” (quotation marks are his), if you are an SCC commit please reach out to me personally so that we can go over it. I’ve heard this before and we are still here.”
This could also create some confusion for the coaches at the other community college programs in the state since recruits could question whether the program they committed to is still going to continue after next season. Arizona Western College, Eastern Arizona College, and Pima Community College, all of whom play in the Western State Football League, will continue.
None of the other MCCCD sports programs are being effected by the decision to cut football, and the district says it will honor the scholarships of the student-athletes in the football program through the spring 2019 semester.
When the coffin lid closes on the Phoenix College football program next December, it will be just four years shy of making it to its 100th anniversary. Shanty would have been proud to have been a big part of reaching that milestone.
But now there won’t be any candles to blow out.