Budget cuts drill Pirates coaches
The phrase “For the love of the game” has never been more applicable for the majority of Porterville College’s coaches.
California’s wave of budget cuts is making its way into sports programs across the state. For all PC part-time head coaches and assistant coaches, that means they will — with a few exceptions — be coaching for free, for the time being.
The college was forced to cut the stipends of these coaches (which ranged from around $1,000 to $3,600 in 2008-09).
The Pirates’ two full-time coaches — women’s basketball coach Dave Kavern and softball coach Vickie Dugan — were not affected.
PC, which cut nearly $15,000 in coaching stipends, also had to remove all stipends across campus to meet the state budget requirements.
Athletic Director Eric Mendoza, while upset for the majority of his coaches, is grateful his program has kept all of its sports intact.
“Despite the cutbacks, we need to count our blessings that Porterville College still has five sports ready to compete this year,” Mendoza said. “A lot of community colleges are cutting sports and laying off employees.”
College of the Sequoias recently cut its men’s golf team while Los Angeles City College went the Arena Football League route and suspended all sports except volleyball for the 2009-10 year.
While the Pirates will still put all five teams in play, it doesn’t soften the blow of coaches losing money and assistant coaches.
“I was devastated,” said volleyball coach and part-time instructor Dale Henderson. “They cut mine and my assistant coach’s (stipend), but I can’t let it affect the volleyball program. It’s happening statewide, so we’re gonna have to move forward.”
Del Marine’s baseball program lost pitching coach Jason Mitchell, who had a $2,600 stipend and coached at PC for three years. Marine, whose 2008-09 stipend was $2,800, is one of the Pirates’ three part-time head coaches who will work without stipends this year.
Marine will assume pitching coaching duties while his program will now have three coaches managing nearly 30 players.
“We’re working hard to try and build a program,” Marine said. “I understand budget cuts are happening throughout the state. I don’t blame anybody, but it’s frustrating to try and build a program when I have to lose my most important assets, my assistant coaches.
“Thirty players with three coaches, it’s gonna be difficult trying to organize practice. Pitchers need attention, catchers need attention and infielders and outfielders need attention. That’s four groups with three coaches. The players are gonna have to rise to the occasion and do some drills on their own.”
Marine, whose team finished fifth in the CVC in 2009, said he’s communicated with the conference’s other coaches to keep apprised of their situations and learned that he now has the smallest staff.
“I’m probably the only college (in the conference) to have a staff of three coaches,” he said. “Most have four, some have five.”
The schools like PC, with a small amount of sports, have fewer outlets to eliminate funds than do all of their conference opponents.
“They’re dealing with (the budget crisis) in different ways,” Marine said. “They’re fortunate enough to absorb these cuts with cutting stipends. Their cuts weren’t as severe as smaller programs where the cuts are harder to absorb. At a school with 15 to 20 sports the cuts can be spread out.”
PC’s five sports are the fewest in the CVC.
Marine and Henderson also had classes cut. Marine taught weight training, sports conditioning and varsity baseball classes last year. He’s left with just varsity baseball, eliminating two thirds of his teaching income.
Henderson, whose 2008-09 stipend was $3,600, also lost a sports conditioning and weight training class. PC as a whole suspended weight lifting classes until the weight room’s remodeling is complete. Henderson could teach beginner and intermediate volleyball classes this year, but only if 22 students sign up. His only protected class is advanced volleyball.
Those two, along with new men’s basketball coach T.J. Jennings, will get a lifeboat of sorts during their respective seasons. The college approved 20 extra-duty days for each of these head coaches and part-time faculty members which will pay more than $50 per hour.
“That’ll help offset the cuts,” Henderson said. “It was a good thing on the college’s part to do something like that.”
These days, which tenured coaches Kavern and Dugan also receive, were put in to help the coaches with recruiting, coaching seminars, camps, meetings and office work but will only be provided during the coaches’ seasons.
“That lessens the blow, but it’s still not ideal,” Mendoza said. “The bad news is they took away the stipends, but the good news is they’ll probably make more with a different package.”
But these extra-duty days won’t go toward helping the Pirates’ assistant coaches. They are still staring at working for free.
Despite Mitchell’s departure, Mendoza received commitments from the rest of the coaches and believes their love of helping young athletes and the potential to get the money back through fundraising will keep them at PC.
“Our assistant coaches are the lifeblood of our department,” Mendoza said. “They do the grunt work. They recruit, work long hours and are dedicated to their job. Usually, fund-raising efforts go to uniforms, equipment and travel. Now, it’ll have to be about paying assistant coaches. We hope the community would rally and help support a great cause. We’re confident we can raise a few more thousand for each sport so we can pay our assistant coaches.”
Gracie Steidley, who received a $2,400 stipend for coaching volleyball and a $300 stipend for coaching softball, didn’t even think about leaving the school as a result of these cuts.
“I would do it for free anyway,” Steidley said. “The (cuts) didn’t really affect me because I do it because I love it.”
Marine added: “If (the coaches) were out there for the money, they’d have quit a long time ago. They love the game and working with student-athetes.”
No one is coming out ahead in this situation, but Mendoza hopes the coaches will try and keep these cuts from affecting the incoming and returning athletes.
“We hope to continue providing the student-athletes with the same college experience,” he said. “Their focus should remain the same: earn a degree, compete at a high level and grow as an individual. Coaches and staff will work together to ensure that continues.
“It certainly won’t be business as usual, but we have to focus on helping our students.”