JUCO Q&A: The Teams

Each year, junior college baseball coaches and teams set their destination for Grand Junction.

They all hope to make the trip to compete in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, but only 10 teams make it.

Physically traveling to Grand Junction, though, can be nearly as challenging as qualifying, especially with the state of the economy.

How much does it cost for a team to compete at JUCO? How do teams raise money to offset the costs?

“We’re figuring its going to be $40,000,” Chipola (Fla.) College coach Jeff Johnson said.

Johnson was booking the team’s trip one day after winning the Gulf District tournament in early May.

Although airline tickets went up the day Chipola purchased its tickets, Johnson is hoping to save some money other ways.

“In the past, we rented a bus in Denver and kept it for the week,” he said. “This time, we’ll try a couple vans and load our own luggage. With the fees at the airport to check in luggage, they’re getting big, especially with all our baseball equipment.”

Those expenses can be hefty for the programs, but most get help from booster clubs and fundraising efforts.

“We’re fortunate people around here love athletics,” Johnson said. “We’re in a process right now asking for help. I think we’ll be OK.”

World Series Tournament Chairman Jamie Hamilton said there was one occasion a school wasn’t confident it could afford the trip several years ago.

“In my 25 years, I’ve had one AD call me from Alabama that didn’t think they would be able to come if they qualified,” Hamilton said. “I spoke to (then NJCAA Executive Director) George Killian and he called the school’s president, who found money, but they didn’t qualify.”

The National Junior College Athletic Association helps with some of the travel expenses based on how far each team has to travel.

“We play a per diem per member, per day, up to 26 members of a club,” Hamilton said. “The formula is based on the number of days the team is here. We send a check to the NJCAA.”

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Q: How do the teams qualify?
A: The NJCAA divides its membership into 24 geographic regions. In order to qualify for national championship participation a team first has to emerge out of its region. In Division I baseball, the teams have be narrowed down to 10 for the national championship tournament and thus a second qualification round (district play) is used. The districting of baseball is based largely on the number of participating Division I baseball teams in each region. Regions 5, 6, 8, 14, 22 have larger number of schools, so those regional tournament also serve as district tournaments (Gulf, Southeastern, Southern, Central and Southwestern). — Mark Krug, NJCAA associate executive director

Q: Why two teams from Texas?
A: The state was split into two regions (5 & 14) several years ago because of the number of NJCAA member colleges in the state. Both regions have large enough participation numbers in DI baseball to warrant their region tournaments also serving as a district qualifier. — Krug

Q: How are the regions and districts determined?
A: The NJCAA uses a geographic representation model in dividing its membership into regions. Districts are unique for each specific sport and are typically determined by the number of participating teams in that sport as well as geographic location. — Krug.

Q: Why don’t California teams play in JUCO?
A: Community and junior colleges in California played a vital role in the founding of the NJCAA in the late 1930s and early ‘40s and helped establish the organization’s early relationships with key groups such as the NCAA and NAIA. By the l960s most of the California schools in the NJCAA made the decision to leave the association due to a variety of reasons, mostly coming from the California state legislature and education council. Today two-year schools in California that complete in athletics do so under the California Community College Athletic Association and are not members of the NJCAA. — Krug.

Q: How many players get to suit up for each team?
A: According to the coaches information packet, the official roster can have 33 listed. There is a maximum of 26 student-athletes, one head coach, four assistants, one manager and one trainer.

Q: What’s allowed in the dugout?
A: The use of tobacco products of any kind by any player or coach on the field or in the dugouts is prohibited, and that rule extends to umpires, game officials and team hosts. Sunflower seeds are permitted, and members of the grounds crew sweep up countless shells from the dugouts after every game. — Eddie Mort, Grand Junction Supervisor of Sports Facilities.

Q: Why can’t the teams practice at Suplizio Field before the first game?
A: There’s usually pictures and we try to limit the use because of the use. It’s a tear on the field. We limit the capacity to three games a day (other than the first day of the tournament). — Mort.

Q: Does JUCO pay more money for teams traveling from a long way vs. teams who are closer to Grand Junction?
A: Some of the money generated by the tournament goes toward helping offset costs for each team while they are participating in the tournament. The reimbursement is based on the number days the team is active (i.e. not eliminated) in the tournament. — Krug

Q: If a team has a no-Sunday rule, do they forfeit the game, or are they rescheduled?
A: In accordance with the NJCAA Constitution and By-laws (Article XI, Section 13.), if a participating college has a written institution policy against Sunday competition, the tournament shall be adjusted to accommodate that college and such adjustment shall not require its team to play sooner than when it was originally scheduled. Notice of such a written policy must be filed with NJCAA Headquarters prior to Sept. 1, each academic year. “We have not had a school file this request to NJCAA Headquarters in the five years I have been working here. The last school that sent us this request was Ricks College (Idaho), but they are no longer an NJCAA member college.” — Krug.

Q: Do the players have to pay for the banquet tickets?
A: According to the coaches information packet, each team gets 20 complimentary banquet tickets, thanks to Alpine Bank and the NJCAA. Teams must purchase all other banquet tickets.

Q: Do the teams make their own hotel arrangements? How is that determined, and how much do they end up spending on hotels?
A: “Hotel arrangements are pre-determined. It’s been a set rotation. We negotiate the overall cost with the hotel, usually between $60 and $75 a night. That’s something the hotels do for us, knock down the rate.” — Kevin Price, JUCO housing committee

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