By ELIZABETH CHUNN, staff reporter
Competitive sports are making a comeback after financial constraints halted Amarillo College’s first athletic program in the 1980s.
While AC’s former program included tennis, golf, football, baseball, basketball and track, the AC board of regents decided to reintroduce sports by bringing volleyball, baseball and cross-country to campus, set for fall of 2022.
“The local talent pool here in Amarillo is rich in runners, volleyball players and baseball players,” Joseph Wyatt, communications coordinator, said. “If our three teams compete well, we may look at adding soccer and basketball in the future.”
In preparation for the upcoming season, AC’s hiring committee filtered through hundreds of applications to carefully fill coaching positions. “For baseball coach, we had over 100 applicants from all over the country,” Paul Proffer, regent chair, said. “The coaches we hired are excellent and want to win.”
Their drive to succeed is fueling the recruiting process, Wyatt said. “Coaches are reviewing high school film and traveling to games to recruit players who are ready for competition against veteran teams in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference,” he said.
Officials also selected top notch facilities to create an environment conducive to athletic success. “Improvements are being made to the Carter Fitness Center, and our baseball team will play at Hodgetown—the best stadium in the country,” Proffer said.
While final scores and season records are one measure of program success, officials hope to achieve a greater goal. Extensive community research indicates the new athletic program will increase enrollment, build campus life and improve school spirit.
“We conducted community focus groups, surveyed parents of student athletes and asked high school students to determine the level-of-interest from our target population,” Proffer, said. “Around 80% to 90% of high school athletes said they would consider AC for sports.”
Cade Foote, a sophomore cross-country runner at Bushland High School, said AC’s cross-country program brings valuable opportunities to those who are not quite ready to give up a sport they participated in since middle school.
“I haven’t given competing at the college level much thought, but I am open to any opportunity I get,” Foote said. “AC’s new program gives athletes a way to extend their passion for something they love.”
While students, faculty and community members remain optimistic about AC’s new athletic program, final communication preparations are underway. “We will have a new website with schedules, stats and a place to purchase tickets next year,” Lisa Gray, an executive assistant, said. Individuals wishing to stay up to date on sports happenings can visit AC’s Facebook page or view the coaches’ Twitter profiles.
Proffer called the return of athletics, “one of the best things we’ve done in a long time.”
“The city is buzzing about the new sports program, and we’re excited to have a new group of students on campus,” he said.