Laker Current Staff Report
The Mid Michigan Community College athletic program is expanding this fall. With a successful basketball program already developed, the college will be adding men’s and women’s cross country in the fall and men’s and women’s bowling in the winter.
With the addition of cross country and bowling, the MMCC Lakers will have six collegiate teams. Basketball is a varsity sport while cross country and bowling will be club sports in their first year. In 2016, those teams will move to the varsity level.
“We are so excited to grow our athletic program,” said Matt Miller, Vice President of Student and Community Relations at MMCC. “Cross country and bowling are great sports with a lot of local participants. It provides a great opportunity for students to compete at the collegiate level.”
The teams will compete against other community colleges and club teams across the state.
Dan Gibson has been hired as the men’s and women’s cross country coach. Gibson earned his bachelor’s degree from Alma College where he was a four-year letter winner in both track and cross country. He returned to Alma College where he coached track and cross country for 18 years. For the last six years, he has coached track at Montabella High School where his girl’s teams have won four league championships.
Joel Warner is the new coach of the men’s and women’s bowling programs. Warner has extensive experience as a bowler and coach. Most recently, he has been working with the women’s bowling team in Clare.
Miller said cross country and bowling were selected based on three factors: number of players required for a team, schedules and budget.
“Both sports seemed very manageable,” he said, noting that a cross country or bowling team can function well with five to eight players.
“We’re taking baby steps here,” he said. “We had to look in terms of simplicity.”
Miller said the college solicited input from local school district superintendents and it was determined that cross country and bowling would be two popular sports based on interest at the high school level.
“We feel we will have teams that will represent the college well.”
Miller said both coaches already have been out recruiting students, while the two basketball coaches already have assembled winning teams.
He said cross country and bowling will start as club sports to allow some time to establish the programs before they move to varsity status. Students are eligible to play a club sport if they take at least one class during the season. To play a varsity sport, students must attend MMCC full-time (12 credit hours) and maintain a 2.0 GPA.
Wiith more than 4,000 students each semester at MMCC, an athletic program provides a more full college experience and complements the other student clubs and events that are available, Miller said.
MMCC’s athletic program is funded by a student activity fee, which also supports student activities, groups, clubs, and the student/community fitness center.
With six teams, MMCC is poised to join the Michigan Community College Athletic Association, the conference for varsity sports at community colleges in Michigan. MMCC is already a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association.
“Our goal is to continue the development of athletics so they offer a great opportunity for students and provide value to the community,” Miller said.
He also indicated that the college will consider in the fall whether to switch from Division III to Division II status. Division II schools provide scholarships to athletes, while Division III schools are not allowed to offer athletic scholarships.
“We will have to decide if we want to make the two-year commitment to become Division II,” he said, noting that it’s entirely up to the college. But colleges must be ready financially to offer scholarships for at least two years.
The MMCC Lakers are currently looking for runners and bowlers for the new teams. Interested students should contact the athletic department at email@example.com for more information.
The MMCC Lakers have their roots in the very early history of the college. Shortly after Mid Michigan Community College opened in 1968, it fielded men’s basketball and baseball teams. The Lakers would play at high schools and even wear uniforms borrowed from a local school. While their original run was short lived, the athletic program left a legacy that today’s teams hope to carry on. Sports returned to MMCC with men’s soccer in Fall 2008. That exhibition season was followed by a full season the next year and an expansion into women’s soccer. In 2010, the MMCC Lakers athletic program fielded men’s and women’s soccer teams and men’s and women’s basketball teams. Soccer has since been dropped as a sport.