There will soon be changes in the way the community colleges in Kansas go about their athletic business. One change that has already been approved by the council of Presidents will take place next basketball season (2013-14).
The Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference (KJCCC) currently has east and west divisions, but under the new system, there will be three divisions within the Jayhawk Conference instead of just two.
The divisions will be West (Barton, Cloud, Colby, Dodge, Garden, Hutch, Pratt and Seward; East Div. I (Allen, Butler, Coffeyville, Cowley, Independence, Labette and Neosho); and East Div. II (Highland, Ft. Scott, Johnson County and KCK).
Each team will play a double round-robin within its division to determine the division champ. All other games will be non-conference and will be scheduled by each college. The division schedules will be set by an AD within each division. (Randy Stange of Hutchinson will set the conference schedule for the West, for example.)
Although the new system affects basketball only, Pratt Community College athletic director Kurt McAfee indicated that the impending change could be merely the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to conference realignment. Larger concerns revolving around the issues of scholarships and competitive equality have the potential to bring about major upheaval in the KJCCC.
“Ever since I have been in Pratt,” McAfee said, “some schools have been pushing the idea of the Jayhawk allowing full-ride scholarships.” Within the 19 schools of the Jayhawk Conference, a variety of circumstances and opinions on the issue exist.
A school can compete at the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I level, which means it can offer “full ride” scholarships; Division II which means they can offer only tuition and books; or Division III which means no athletic scholarships are awarded.
A school can select what level they want to compete at in each sport—they don’t have to be the same level for every sport. For example, track and field is at Division III while basketball is at Division I.
Except that Pratt doesn’t offer ANY “full ride” scholarships in athletics. So, for instance, in basketball PCC plays in Division I, even though their basketball scholarships are Division II. Therein lies the rub.
Of course, currently, NO school in the Jayhawk is allowed to offer full ride scholarships, so the competitive inequity mainly comes into play when Jayhawk schools advance into the NJCAA play-offs.
However, some schools within the Jayhawk want the conference to change its rules to allow Division I (“full-ride”) scholarships for athletes. Other schools, like Pratt, oppose that change. “PCC is against it simply from an economic perspective,” McAfee explained. Basically, PCC cannot afford to award “full-ride” scholarships to its athletes.
Page 2 of 3 - McAfee believes that if enough Jayhawk schools decide they want to challenge the conference by-laws to allow “full-ride” scholarships, we could see dissension in the conference. Since there aren’t likely to be enough jucos wishing to offer “full-ride” scholarships to enable them to change the conference by-laws, those that do want to offer them—like Dodge City who currently is flush with casino money—may defect from the conference. Or those schools might form a D-I while schools like Pratt, Allen, Labette (to name a few) might make up a D-II within the Jayhawk.
The difficulty with that, from McAfee’s perspective, is that there is pressure for PCC to compete at the Division I level even though Pratt can only offer Division II scholarships (because of economics).
That pressure comes from the perception that Division I is more prestigious. “Many of my coaches want to have a Division I program. Because of perceived status and competitive level differences, it would be difficult to recruit and play against Division I schools if we are Division II,” McAfee stated. “Many of my coaches are going to want to leave if that comes about.”
As it is now, all Jayhawk Schools are really Division II from a scholarship standpoint, even if they are playing in Division I. But that parity will disappear if the schools who can afford to are suddenly allowed to start awarding “full ride” scholarships. Because some schools, like Pratt, won’t be able to do so.
If there are defections from the Jayhawk, it would cause scheduling complications since the conference bylaws prevent current members from playing anyone who has jumped ship. That would leave Dodge City, say, struggling to find football games. McAfee said, “This is a deterrent for a school like Dodge City that is clamoring to leave. I am not sure where they would be able to get games, especially in football. Much like the Big East, basketball was the glue that kept this conference together but football will probably be the reason it splits apart.”
There are other complications involving scheduling of non-conference schools that are in NJCAA Region VI, but not members of the Jayhawk Conference— like Hesston, Brown Mackie and Northwest Tech. Because of funding and other technicalities, there are issues among the Jayhawk schools that could make scheduling Region VI opponents during the regular season even more problematic, which makes seeding of the Region VI playoffs a virtual crapshoot.
In order to be able to do accurate seeding of Region VI playoffs, the non-conference schools need to have played a reasonable sampling of Jayhawk schools during the regular season. But many Jayhawk schools don’t or won’t really want to schedule schools that are subject to different funding and recruiting regulations.
Page 3 of 3 - In short, then, a new protocol will be in place for basketball next season in the Jayhawk Conference, but it could be just the beginning of things to come as community colleges wrestle with economic and competitive issues.