Since the abrupt suspension of the spring 2020 athletic season due to COVID-19, the athletic teams at Fullerton College have not been able to practice, play or interact in-person for a long seven months.
Teams have been meeting virtually since the beginning of the semester and will soon be able to return to campus to begin conditioning for the upcoming shortened seasons.
The lack of sporting events also means no fan attendance, concessions, apparel sales or gate fees.
Though the amount of money gathered at sporting events is small, it helps the athletics department pay basic expenses for the sports teams.
“On a really good day at football, we’ll pay for all of our expenses. That includes renting the facility, renting the buses [to transport the team to the field] and paying the officials…most of the time, our gate wouldn’t even cover [these expenses],” said Fullerton College athletic director Scott Giles.
Unlike most NCAA athletic programs, Fullerton College’s athletic program is not funded by television contracts or sponsorships. Instead, they receive their funds through student enrollment in intercollegiate and athletic classes.
Giles also explained that none of the sports on campus actually make a profit.
The head coaches at Fullerton College are full-time faculty members and teach a variety of classes including intercollegiate classes—in which student-athletes enroll to participate in the competitive sports on campus.
Like all other community college athletic programs in California, the department’s primary source of funding is the state of California.
“The Vice President over finances gives every division a budget, whether you are humanities or athletics. We follow our budget, and some teams fundraise on their own through golf tournaments, group fundraisers and crowd fundraisers,” Giles said.
Since head coaches are paid as faculty members, their salaries do not come out of the department’s budget. However, assistant coaches are paid as hourly workers by the department, and since teams aren’t competing at this time, they are not being paid.
On a positive note, Giles was happy to report that beginning October 19, teams will be returning to campus for “conditioning purposes only”. All teams will be on campus for an hour and a half twice a week. All athletes will go through different screenings and protocols but there are not daily COVID tests available at the moment.
Looking forward, the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA), the governing body for California Community College athletics programs, has a plan for all intercollegiate sports to be played this spring.
The sports that are typically played in fall are scheduled to compete in an early spring season from February to April, while the traditional spring sports will have a late spring season from March to May.
One concern the department has in allowing teams to compete this spring is the expensive cost of COVID testing for athletes and personnel.
“As institutions of higher learning, we are required to have a testing protocol in place, which is a huge hurdle we have to overcome, and that might not be feasible. The price tag on [COVID] testing is rather expensive. However, Our CCCAA governing board is looking for avenues to get some cheaper testing,” Giles said.
As far as actual funding for athletics, the lack of sporting events on campus is actually saving the department money. Most of the fees for team transportation, official fees and venue costs come directly from the department’s budget, so the lack of such events financially benefits the department.
Giles is happy with the amount of support FC athletics receive from the college. He also remains optimistic about the current funds despite the hiatus.
“As long as we have students enrolled in our intercollegiate classes, we are in good shape. Our coaches have done a great job of keeping our numbers up.”
Giles also said that he believes the athletic department can continue to function for the foreseeable future with the current structure.
For now, athletes, coaches and fans will have to wait and see what the future holds.
“As we know, COVID has a way of changing things, so [our plans for the future] could drastically change,” Giles said.