Baseball coach and board member speak out after LC suspends athletics

Laredo College Coach Michael Chavez says he hasn’t been kept in the loop, but instead he’s finding out everything as it unfolds.
Published: May. 11, 2021 at 10:49 PM CDT
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - After months of back and forth, parents, prospective college students, and former Laredo College athletes now have an answer... the LC athletics program and its six sports have been suspended for the 2021-2022 school year.

The pandemic’s wrath has struck once again, causing lower enrollment numbers at Laredo College, and in turn reducing financial resources.

The board cited this as the reason for the suspension.

Although seven out of eight board trustees voted in favor of the suspension, many expressed how hard it was to reach this decision.

“This has been a very, very hard decision, and I’m not happy about this,” said Tita Vela, position 9.

“It all comes back to numbers no matter how we put it,” said Cynthia Mares, position 1.

“It’s a program that has been in the college for many years,” said Esteban Rangel, position 6. “It’s brought happiness trophies, anything you can think of, but we as a board I feel that we’re making a decision based on where we are financially at right now.”

The moment high school athletes wait for is signing their letter of intent.

From the volleyball court, to the baseball field, to the tennis court, not forgetting softball and soccer.

Laredo College offered an inexpensive, close-to-home college option for young athletes.

One of those was Michael Chavez who played at LC from 1995 to 1996, also coaching baseball for three years up until last year.

“We were off to one of our best starts in five years, we were number one in the conference, and it was unfortunate that our season was cut short and that the program wasn’t brought back when many other colleges were continuing on with their athletic programs.”

Last summer, the board suspended all six sports in the athletics program, citing health precautions because of COVID-19.

It was the only college in its conference to completely suspend athletics rather than playing with COVID precautions in place.

That left many former players, coaches and prospective students in limbo, questioning the decision.

Monday’s final decision comes after the board’s April meeting in which they originally voted to suspend the program except for soccer, but then one of the trustees wanted to look into possible sources of funding.

“Athletics is just as important as any other student program, so we need to help each other and try to find ways to fund programs like this because they definitely have an impact in our community,” Karina Elizondo, trustee position 7, told KGNS.

Elizondo played soccer at United High School and at Texas A&M International University.

“Who am I to decide the future of these students? Who am I to deprive them of receiving the opportunities I received when I was a college student.” (Elizondo)

Elizondo was the only trustee to vote against suspending the athletics program.

“I would like to emphasize that this interview is based on my opinion. It doesn’t represent the views of the board.” (Elizondo)

Jackie Leven-Ramos, trustee position 8 and secretary, presented the college’s financial report.

Suspending the sports program this past school year allowed the college to have a balanced budget.

If the athletics program and the Camilo Prada Child Development Center Remained, the budget would have required $61 million, compared to $57 million during the pandemic.

Aside from eliminating the athletics program altogether, other options could have included:

- increasing taxes in the city by one cent. That would affect the entire community.

- tapping into reserve money. That is only a temporary solution.

- increasing the student activity fee by $5. That would affect the entire student population.

- and increasing tuition, which would also affect the entire student population.

Aside from graduating seniors and rising freshmen, coaches’ jobs are on the line.

Like Michael Chavez, not all double as faculty members.

He says he hasn’t been kept in the loop, but instead he’s finding out everything as it unfolds.

“My family followed me over here for baseball, and now that they’re not bringing back the baseball program or athletics in general, we’re going to be moving back to our hometown of Corpus Christi,” said Chavez. “And I’ll probably catch back on with Coastal Bend College in Beeville where I was at before coming to Laredo.”

The college says the suspension is for one year, and the board will re-evaluate its decision in a mid-year review.

The college issued a statement through its public relations department, saying:

“Sports are valuable and historic for our institution; however, transformation and adaptation aligns with our college mission and is critical to the sustainability and growth needs of our community.”

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