Editor’s note: This continues a series of articles on Western Nevada College intercollegiate athletics, which are being discontinued after the 2016 season.
As the Western Nevada College athletics program comes near to the finish, Wildcat baseball coach D.J. Whittemore said he’s more concerned about how the value of athletics at the community college level is seen and not concerned as much about how his program is coming to an end.
As the curtain comes down on WNC athletics when the 2016 season comes to an end, Whittemore, who has been the head coach of WNC baseball since its first season in 2006, stressed he’s thankful to the college and the community for the opportunity.
“First and foremost the plan was always we wanted to benefit the college,” said Whittemore about the mission of his program.
As far as the future, Whittemore said, “My No. 1 goal and priority is to talk about the value of community college sports,” Whittemore said. “It either is or not valuable to the community college experience.”
He noted the community college level is the only level in many cases in which athletics isn’t valued. On the university level, high school level and even middle school level, it’s not even questioned if athletics should be valued.
While not wanting to be combative, Whittemore said it doesn’t make sense for state leaders to believe athletics are important at the four-year level but not at community colleges, saying if anything the University of Nevada and UNLV are hurt by the lack of importance seen in sports at community colleges because they can be feeder programs for Nevada and UNLV.
While the intent may have been not to provide sports at community colleges when they began in 1971, Whittemore said much has changed since then, including the growth of the state, which has tripled.
“Times have changed and the laws haven’t kept pace,” Whittemore said. “Nevada needs to keep its brightest in our state education system. Part of doing that requires providing a complete experience. California has long been attracting our best athletes — many of whom reside long term in the same locale in which they pursue their education.
“My hope is that we get this right sooner rather than later. We are all hurt by the exodus of talent from our state. It’s not about baseball to me. For me, it’s about doing what’s right for all of us.”
He said his program has been revenue neutral and when the college stated how much needed to be cut — such as $45,000 two years ago — Whittemore said his program has made the necessary cuts.
Many point to the travel cost of competing in the Scenic West Athletic Conference which WNC joined after not being allowed to join the California association.
WNC is the only baseball program in the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association that competes at the Division I level, but only provides Division II scholarships paying just for tuition and fees. Division I schools also provide funding for housing, food and books.
But after being shunned by California, the only realistic option for WNC was the SWAC, a Division I conference and Whittemore said he actually believes that was best for his program. “I’ve always been thankful that that happened,” he said.
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