SHERIDAN — With 2018 just on the horizon, Sheridan College recently made the declaration to remain a Division I program within the National Junior College Athletic Association for the next four years.
Every four years, the NJCAA requires each of its member schools to decide if the institution wants to reclassify its divisional status, and the Generals elected to remain Division I — a move that represents SC’s view on the importance of athletics.
“Dr. Paul Young, the president, makes a commitment to supporting athletics,” SC athletic director Jenni Winter said. “Our teams, especially on the rodeo side, are doing very well and have been very successful at the national level.
“Obviously, we are seeing some success with men’s basketball, as well, so I feel the support is there.”
The Sheridan College men’s basketball team — which is currently riding an 11-game winning streak and boasts a 14-1 overall record — earned a national ranking for the first time since 2013 a couple weeks ago. The Generals checked in at No. 17 in the latest NJCAA top 25.
Three divisions make up the NJCAA — Division I, II and III. Programs at the Division I level can allocate the most athletic scholarship money.
Schools such as SC have the capability to award full-ride scholarships to student-athletes, which include tuition, room and board, books and transportation.
The pool of scholarship money significantly drops at the Division II level and doesn’t exist at the Division III level.
The Division I declaration also included a commitment by the Generals to remain with seven athletic programs — men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s rodeo, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball.
“There’s this rumor that we are going to add baseball and softball and that’s not true,” Winter said. “I don’t know where that rumor started, but I often get phone calls or emails about people asking when will we add baseball and softball, and we just aren’t.”
The facilities and amount of money needed to fund baseball and softball programs loom quite large for any school, and that’s just one reason the Generals won’t add baseball or softball at the moment. Another reason is the fact that only one team in the Region IX North Division, Miles City Community College, currently competes in baseball.
The other Region IX teams that play baseball include: Lamar Community College; McCook Community College; Northeastern Junior College; Otero Junior College; Trinidad State Junior College and Western Nebraska Community College. Aside from Miles City CC, Western Nebraska, in Scottsbluff, represents the closest team to Sheridan, and 323 miles separate the two schools. The other four schools reside at least 445 miles away from Sheridan and two reside at least 620 miles from Sheridan.
All those miles equate to missed classes for the student-athletes and a larger travel budget for the program.
If Sheridan decided to add another sport, Winter encourages the school to look at starting up men’s and women’s cross-country teams. Cross-country is a relatively cheap sport and would only cost about $200,000 for both men’s and women’s teams, with the largest cost being coach’s salaries and scholarships.
Travel wouldn’t be as arduous or expensive as baseball because Region IX already has four teams — two North Division teams — competing in cross-country. Also, NJCAA teams have the ability to race in invitationals that include four-year universities. For instance, Gillette College competed in invitationals hosted by South Dakota School of Mines and Black Hills State.
For the time being, however, the Generals will remain with their seven athletic programs while competing in the Division I ranks until at least 2022.