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PRCC athletics maneuvering through tough times

Pearl River County Community College’s athletic programs, like others across the nation, have been trying to figure out the best route forward during the COVID-19 pandemic.

PRCC’s men’s basketball team was ranked #1 in the country and heading to the national championship tournament when sports were cancelled. Additionally rodeo, baseball and softball seasons were underway for only a few weeks before things shut down.

Not only was this a loss for the players and coaches associated with the teams whose seasons were cut short, but it also monetarily affected PRCC’s athletic programs.

Athletic Director Jeff Long said sources of revenue like gate receipts and ticket sales were lost, but the money saved from travel, food services, among other areas offset those losses for the most part.

However, there is another revenue stream that’s been affected by the pandemic, and it holds the most weight for the Wildcats.

“Budget wise the biggest problem we’re facing is the fact that we supplement our budget with camps, clinics and showcases that we have mostly during May and June when the seasons are over,” Long said.

Some schools in the U.S have started cutting entire athletic programs in an effort to balance the books, but Long said that hasn’t even been discussed for PRCC’s teams.

The college is prepared for the sudden downturn thanks in part to growth of the college and improvement of the campus.

Long said the key component of junior college sports is to give players an avenue to receive an education and compete without paying four-year university prices, which is why cutting an athletic program hasn’t been considered.  The emphasis isn’t on the money, but on the opportunities offered to athletes.

“We try to provide an avenue, and look from a business standpoint you’re going to be disappointed, but we try to provide an avenue for students, who in normal circumstances, wouldn’t have a chance (to compete after high school),” Long said.

The NJCAA has not made the decision to make nationwide legislative decisions regarding the restart of college athletics, instead leaving it up for conferences to decide what’s best for their members.

Conferences are taking things on a week-by-week basis evaluating not only what restrictions are lifted, but what guidelines are still in place from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As restrictions are lifted, Long is hopeful the rest of the summer and fall schedules can continue as originally planned. “We’re hoping to be able to go as planned and keep the same schedule, but we’re doing the thing that’s safest for our student athletes and community,” Long said.

Leagues across the nation are trying to predict what the fall will look like for sports, which so far has included discussion of possibly limiting travel between states for sports teams. Long said PRCC will be unaffected, for the most part, by any travel restrictions that may be put in place for athletic programs because the majority of games played by PRCC teams take place in state.

“I think certainly for the NCAA that’s more concerning because they play cross country games. We’re pretty regional,” Long said.

The uncertain nature of the pandemic and its trajectory means programs can’t schedule things months in advance.

Still, Long is optimistic things can turn around and improve in time for fall. “It’s certainly still up in the air, but I hope to get kids in here and get some sort of normalcy. I’m excited about things opening up and really hopeful to return to a normal fall schedule,” Long said.