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LC board president speaks out on decision to suspend athletics

The college invested in the sports facilities in 2018 and 2019, which Zepeda says shows the college’s intent to continue the program... emphasizing that this is a temporary suspension, and they will revisit the topic.
Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 10:54 PM CDT
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - After the Laredo College Board of Trustees voted to suspend the athletics program for another year, the board’s president is speaking out.

The board first suspended the athletics program for one year in May of 2020 due to COVID-19, and this past Monday the board voted seven to one to extend that suspension for one more year.

That means no more baseball, softball, tennis, soccer or volleyball… at least temporarily.

The decision to suspend athletics for another year was in large part a result of numbers.

”One of the questions we keep getting asked is where did the budget money go for athletics?” said Lupita Zepeda. “Well, it was never collected. This is due to decrease in enrollment due to the pandemic, which caused reduction in the collection of revenue from tuition, fees and state appropriations, which are tied to enrollment.”

According to the college’s financial data, eliminating the athletics program and the Camilo Prada Child Development Center last year allowed for a balanced budget.

However, for the 2021 fiscal year, the board had to work with about $58 million compared to $61 million for fiscal year 2020.

For just athletics, the budget was $1.2 million for the 2019 to 2020 school year.

The projected cost for just athletics for fiscal year 2022 would be nearly $1.8 million, and over the past three years, Zepeda says the average investment per athlete was about $17,000.

”For comparison, we can train CDL drivers for approximately $3,700 so for the investment of one athlete, we can get four truck drivers employed and on the road. This is to say nothing about healthcare, nursing and other workforce programs.”

Prior to the pandemic, 68 students were involved in the athletics program, 17 of whom are local.

”These 17 students are a small part out of the thousands of students who graduate each year from our local high schools. No future students were impacted by suspension because we did it so early in the process that it allowed students to make other plans to play elsewhere, and no new letters of intent were provided.”

The college invested in the sports facilities in 2018 and 2019, which Zepeda says shows the college’s intent to continue the program... emphasizing that this is a temporary suspension, and they will revisit the topic.

“(Board members) are all volunteers, and we want to make Laredo College be the best that it can be. We are number one in Texas, and we continue to work with everybody, all the students, our staff, our administration to continue making it number one.”

In place of the athletics program, the college is working on what they’re calling a wellness program.

Zepeda says with it, students, alumni and other people in the community will be able to use the facilities.

She says they are looking into partnering with the city and county so they can also use them.

The board president says all full-time coaches remain employed through their Health and Safety Operations Center, which was created during the pandemic.

She also says that part-time coaches’ contracts expired after the initial suspension.

As for the alternatives, a majority of the board decided that they didn’t want to raise taxes, tuition or student fees, but they instead wanted to use available funding to get people trained and back to work as fast as possible.

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