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Calhoun basketball plans on hold

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com 340-2432

The sound of a bouncing basketball will not echo through Calhoun Community College's Carlton Kelley gymnasium anytime soon.

Calhoun President Marilyn Beck is putting plans to restart the defunct basketball program on hold. She said this would be a year-to-year decision, which she plans to make based on the college's circumstances.

"I would never rule it out in the future," Beck told The Daily.

"But we've got a lot of new efforts on campus and several new programs. We've got our hands full, so we need to focus on these priorities."

In related news, plans for an athletic complex remain on hold indefinitely.

Then-President Richard Carpenter eliminated the college's athletic programs on May 4, 2001, to save money.

When Beck came to Calhoun, she restarted baseball and fast-pitch softball in the 2005-06 school year under a mandate from then-Chancellor Roy Johnson.

At the time, she said she planned to add men's and women's basketball when money became available.

The state Board of Education fired Johnson, however, last summer and hired Bradley Byrne to oversee the state's two-year college system in May after a succession of interim chancellors.

Change in chancellors

Beck said the change in
chancellors didn't affect the basketball decision because it was basically made last spring.

She said she based her decision on a combination of finances and priorities.

She did not have available the cost of restarting the two sports, but Johnson originally estimated the college would need about $100,000.

"Baseball and softball were much more expensive than we anticipated," Beck said.

During a press conference following a tour of Calhoun on July 24, Byrne said basketball is low on the list of priorities.

"I went to Duke University, so I love basketball, but sports is not a priority," Byrne said.

"I'm focusing on work-force development, academic courses that transfer to four-year universities and fulfilling the training needs of our businesses and industries."

Byrne did not, however, rule out supporting a restart of basketball at a later date.

"If we can do those (priorities well) while having quality employees and quality athletics, we might consider restarting another sports program," Byrne said.

Disappointment

Austin High basketball coach Demond Garth said the decision disappointed him.

He played baseball at Calhoun from 1997 to 1999, so he said he understands the opportunity junior college sports gives student-athletes who might not play at the four-year college level.

Garth said he has had at least five players in his two years as coach who have had to leave Decatur to play at junior colleges like Shelton State, Northwest- Shoals, Lawson State and Bevill State.

"Calhoun gave me a chance to play college athletics," Garth said.

"And having basketball at Calhoun would give more local athletes a chance to play without having to leave home."

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