GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - After 80 years, Grand Rapids Community College is ending its football program, citing budget concerns and the recent departure of its head coach, Coach Tony Annese.
GRCC made the surprise announcement Monday afternoon on its website.
Please watch the attached video report for more on this developing story.
Statement from Grand Rapids Community College:
Citing reasons that include budget concerns and the recent departure of the head coach, and upon the recommendation of the college Provost and in consultation with the Board of Trustees, college president Dr. Steven C. Ender announced today that GRCC will discontinue its intercollegiate football program effective immediately.
"This has been a painful decision for all involved," said Dr. Ender, in making the announcement. "We are aware of the 80-year history of the football program, and are pained to discontinue its existence," he said. "It was not an easy decision, but one that needed to be made."
Ender outlined the primary reasons for this action as:
Significant scheduling difficulties with games now being played in Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota and Georgia. These games require GRCC student-athletes to travel by bus for up to 19 hours to reach a game site.
Significant personal obstacles faced by GRCC student-athletes in the football program, many who are from out-of-state, as they try to manage off-campus living arrangements, financial aid, course schedules and football obligations.
Significant compliance problems with federal Title IX regulations, specifically in regard to numbers of students by gender participating in GRCC's intercollegiate athletic programs and the financial resources committed to sports by gender.
The sudden departure of Coach Annese.
According to Tina Hoxie, Dean of Student Affairs, and whose office oversees the college's athletic programs, GRCC was faced with two options upon the departure of Annese. The options included hiring a new coach and redeveloping the program, or evaluating its future and making a determination on its continuation.
"The lack of in-state competition, forcing our players to travel as far away as Georgia and North Dakota - which added to the program's expenses - played a large role in our decision as we evaluated its future," she said.
GRCC plans to work with all the student-athletes that will be affected by this decision, whether they choose to continue at the college or transfer to another institution to play football. "We will continue to work with - and provide educational support to - students who choose to remain at GRCC to ensure their academic success through the remainder of their time here," said Hoxie.
GRCC officials held a meeting earlier in the day with current football players and assistant coaches to inform them of their decision. "Out of respect for their personal commitment to the football program, they were the first to hear about the decision," said Hoxie.
The College will be officially informing the NJCAA and the Midwest Football Conference about this change.
Grand Rapids Community College, established in 1914, offers opportunities for over 30,000 students annually in degree courses, certification and training programs, workshops and personal enrichment classes. GRCC holds classes on the downtown Grand Rapids campus as well as several additional locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.