In November, the Grand Rapids Community College football team capped off a banner season by going undefeated and winning a conference championship.
On Monday, Jan. 9, the NJCAA school announced the cancelation of its football program effective immediately.
After 80 years of fielding a team with a winning tradition, the defending Midwest Football Conference champions have laid this once gridiron giant to rest. According to www.grccraiders.com, the recent departure of longtime head coach Tony Annese, and an estimated $250,000 per year budget, invoked GRCC to feel it was unnecessary to continue football operations.
Charlie Wells, the athletic director at GRCC, stated on Jan. 16, that the decision to cancel the program was strictly financial. Wells said that generally, students are not pleased with the decision.
“Students are a big piece. They are saddened. Recently, some have lifted their heads and things are returning to normal but there was definitely a somber moment there,” said Wells. The GRCC athletic director also stated that it will be tough to gauge whether or not the loss of the football team will have a negative effect on the rest of the Raiders athletic program, and to let the process walk its course and take things one step at a time.
The cuts of the unfortunate events run deep.
Former Port Huron Northern athletic stand-out and Raiders redshirt freshman Kenny Sanders has been affected both athletically and educationally. Instead of remaining at the school, the disappointed football player has left GRCC and enrolled at SC4 for the current semester.
Sanders said he was unhappy about the decision.
The freshman athlete said there was a sense of failure or let down within the GRCC program, amongst the players. Sanders further elaborated on the issue by saying, “Everyone doesn’t know the whole story. The school could have a whole new program. The talk within the program among players and coaches is that there were possible sanctions coming. Between that and the money, they decide to give up on the team.”
Personally motivated by the setback, Sanders intends to further his education at SC4 for now and eventually transfer to another college to play spring football somewhere. However, he didn’t dismiss the possibility of going out for the SC4 basketball team next fall.
Annese, the former GRCC and current Ferris State University head football coach, was unable to be reached for his take on the recent events.
Individuals connected with SC4 and the Skippers athletic department feel very fortunate their programs are intact. Current athletic director and longtime men’s basketball coach, Dale Vos, said that he would be personally devastated if the college’s program fell by the wayside.
“I’ve been here since I was 25 years old. In a lot of ways from an employment standpoint, this has been my life’s work. Without question we are fortunate. The support we receive from the administration, faculty and the board of trustees is incredible. We are aware of the tough economic times and must be more efficient financially. The budget has decreased four years in a row and sacrifices have been made,” said Vos.
For now, GRCC is transitioning into a new era of athletics and adapting to the changes. Meanwhile SC4 strives to remain steady and successful in both the areas of athletics and academics. The Raiders program has been sacked. However, the Skippers are driving towards their goals.