Lake Tahoe Community College could get its first intercollegiate soccer program by fall 2014, but first it has a lot of turf to navigate.
Chief among the questions LTCC Academic Affairs and Student Services Vice President Tom Greene asked at a Tuesday forum was whether the community would financially support the men’s and women’s teams. Greene estimated start-up costs for the program at $20,000, while ongoing fees would run above $40,000.
“We need to know if the community is behind us. Because once we make this investment, that cost is sunk. We’re not just making commitments of $20,000,” Greene said. “This is a significant institutional effort that goes well beyond a dollar figure.”
The proposed soccer program wouldn’t be the college’s first intercollegiate athletic team. LTCC offered cross-country running, volleyball and Nordic ski teams throughout the 1990s, but the teams folded due to lack of student interest, according to LTCC Board Clerk Roberta Mason.
LTCC Physical Education and Health Professor Tim Johnson argued Tuesday night that a soccer program would have no difficulty attracting student athletes. Athletic teams give participants — who in this case would have to be enrolled as full-time equivalent students — a way to develop their learning beyond the classroom, he said.
“It’s the right vehicle at the right time. I think we have a great possibility here,” Johnson said. “We’ve been talking about this college being a destination college … What could be a program that can get students into these doors? This is a program that can do that and engage our community.”
About 50 people attended the Tuesday soccer forum, many of whom voiced their agreement with Johnson’s proposal. A dozen attendees testified to the program’s potential ability to attract students and keep them positively engaged.
“I would like to see the kids have a reason to keep coming to school, to go to college and keep prospering,” forum participant Tim Johnson said.
A soccer program’s ability to attract a younger, more diverse demographic is one of the reasons the proposal has gained so much traction, Greene said.
“It’s rebranding, it’s able to provide a vehicle to post-secondary education for many folks that probably may not consider one if it wasn’t for soccer,” he said. “Maybe a few folks make it to be professional soccer players and maybe the rest come out with a higher education.”
The men’s and women’s team would both have 20 to 22 players and would compete in the Sacramento league, according to Johnson. He estimated teams would play 18 to 20 games throughout the course of the fall season.
The college board will discuss the proposal at upcoming meetings in May and June.