By Ray Hamill — The fall sports season will never be the same again on the North Coast. College football is now officially dead here.
The news on Thursday morning that College of the Redwoods has made the decision to suspend the school’s football and beach volleyball programs was met with a tremendous sadness and collective air of disbelief from the local sports community.
It was sudden. It was heartbreaking. It was devastating. And it comes just 18 months after Humboldt State dropped its football program.
Just like that, college football is now gone from the North Coast.
Just like that, a tradition that spanned almost a century and close to 150 seasons combined, one that has benefitted generations of local football players, fans and families, and one that meant far more to us here than it does in most communities, has been cruelly taken away.
Once again budgetary issues are listed as the culprit, with CR facing the prospect of severe cuts campus wide in the wake of COVID-19 and forced to redirect almost half a million dollars from the athletics department.
But just like with HSU, the dollars and cents saved don’t even begin to measure the impact this will have longterm on the sport here or the intangibles associated with the decision.
Budget cuts are one thing, but taking away a rich tradition that has been an integral part of the fabric of community sports on the North Coast for so long is something else entirely.
This isn’t just about cutting a program. It’s about cutting one that serves a vital purpose here on the North Coast.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, local sports in this area have a far bigger impact on the community because of our relative isolation, and when we lose a team like CR football it hurts more here than it does in many communities, again because of that tradition and fundamental purpose it served.
College of the Redwoods athletics isn’t just about wins and losses. It’s always been about far more than that.
It’s about providing a fundamental platform for the local sports community to thrive. It’s about providing an opportunity for local student athletes to continue playing while beginning their college education, and providing an opportunity for those not ready to go to a four-year school to develop both physically and mentally so they can go to a four-year school.
Where do they go now? Who serves them now?
What was doubly cruel about the news is that it comes at a time when CR sports was capturing the imagination of the local community more than it has in years, making a drive for more local recruits (including football), and pushing for more of its student athletes to graduate.
And the Corsairs were succeeding on all those fronts.
Because of all that, this will have a bigger and more devastating impact on the sport here on the North Coast than HSU’s decision to eliminate football in 2018 did.
A program that has benefitted generations of local players is gone.
The decision may have been forced on the school, but I hope the CR administration realizes what they have taken away from us.