There is a long-standing tradition of athletic success at Amarillo College. In 1967, the golf team, led by Coach Marvin McCuan, won the conference title and participated in the National Junior College Golf Meet in Miami, Florida. In the spring of the same year, Badger pitcher Baxter McAllister was signed as a pitcher for the Houston Astros.
Amarillo College’s basketball team also experienced success in the early seventies. The men’s basketball team found success, winning conference championships, as well as being ranked 9th in the nation at one point. In the second year of existence, the women’s basketball team won their conference title and regionals, making it all the way to the national tournament.
Soon a new era of athletics will begin under the direction of Mark White, executive vice president and general counsel. Amarillo College was recently granted full member status into the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) as well as the Western Junior College Athletic Conference (WJCAC).
First things first. The current objective is to assemble a community advisory board to get a sense of what the community expects from the AC athletics program, as well as offer ideas on how to integrate AC sports with other activities in the community and within Amarillo’s culture at large. The advisory board will consist of 8-10 locals who will also help spread the word about AC’s new sports activities to the community.
Next in the plan is hiring coaches and recruiting players. “Do we want coaches that are only focused on winning, or do we want people who fit within the Culture of Caring and our strategic plan as a College?” White emphasizes that his search will be on the latter, noting that whatever coaches are hired understand the ways we support our students and love our students to success.
Men’s and women’s cross-country will begin in August 2022, which means a coach will need to be hired this summer with the recruiting process beginning shortly thereafter. One coach will be hired to coach both men’s and women’s teams. There are few teams in our conference who participate in cross country. Part of the new coach’s job will be to help organize meets with participating colleges, conference and non-conference alike.
The women’s volleyball program will begin shortly after cross-country in September 2022; the volleyball coach will also be hired this summer with a plan to begin recruiting this fall. Amarillo College will participate with seven other colleges in the WJCAC conference. Women’s volleyball will play a total of 16 games; each college will play the other participating colleges twice. Carter Fitness Center is slated to undergo renovations to be practice and game-ready once the sport begins.
Men’s baseball will begin non-conference play in Fall 2022 with conference games starting in Spring 2023. The plan is to hire a coach by July 2021 with an eye to begin recruiting Spring 2022. The biggest question for baseball is where to practice and play home games. Hodgetown is a possibility for games; however, scheduling and practice facilities would still be in question. As of now, double-headers will be scheduled for Fridays and Saturdays at noon.
Conference games will see AC competing against colleges such as Clarendon College, El Paso Community College, Frank Philips, New Mexico Junior College, New Mexico Military Institute, and a number of other community colleges in Texas and New Mexico. Non-conference games will be played as well, and which colleges AC will play depends on which division Amarillo College chooses to be in (Division II or III). That decision is currently being weighed.
With the proliferation of local club teams for both baseball and volleyball, White sees little issue in being able to recruit quality players for both sports. Having athletics as part of the college experience will also enhance enrollment as well as student life and student experience both on and off campus. Plus, AC will introduce some cool athletic swag to boot!
College athletics scholarships will be offered and White sees a boost in enrollment as an added benefit to offering sports at AC. Typically, when one student is recruited, another student comes with her/him, whether that be just a friend or boyfriend or girlfriend. With around 80 prospective athletes being recruited, that equates to roughly 160 potential new students enrolling at the college. Recruiting student athletes could also increase the number of full-time students, which would help enhance state reimbursement for contact hours.
Will having sports at AC increase our revenue? Unlikely, says White. The whole goal is for this endeavor into sports be budget-neutral. Not losing money; not making money. There could be opportunities to host conference championships and potentially even national championships, especially in baseball with a stadium like Hodgetown. That remains to be seen, though.
It will be a fun experience for students, as well as offer our community additional ways to experience Amarillo College. Regardless of the outcome, the goal is consistent. The desire is to have our students be successful both on and off the “field.”