EGCC Has Mascot, Hopes to Field 4 Sports Teams

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Eastern Gateway Community College is seeking to raise $100,000 so it can field a men’s baseball team and a women’s softball team next spring.

It also has aspirations to field men and women’s basketball teams the 2018-19 academic year.

The president of Eastern Gateway, Jimmie Bruce, announced those plans Wednesday afternoon at its Valley campus along with progress to date in achieving them.

Wearing a white baseball cap bearing the name of the community college and “Gators,” below which was the green snout of an alligator, Bruce announced, “Our intention is to join the National Junior College Athletic Association and the Ohio Community College Athletic Conference and begin competition in the 2017-18 academic year

The junior college association is the counterpart of the NCAA. The junior college association, he noted, has more than 500 members that participate in 15 men’s sports and 13 women’s sports.

By offering intercollegiate sports, Bruce posited, Eastern Gateway will “attract more students to our college and enhance pride in the college and within our community. According to the National Survey of Student Engagement, students want to come to a college with a comfortable environment that will support their learning goals. Student involvement in the campus community is vital to a successful college experience. Students don’t want to attend a college where they have nothing to do but study.”

Offering a sports program, the president of Eastern Gateway said, provides an avenue to greater involvement on campus.

Standing behind him at the press event were five men, all volunteers, who will work to raise the $100,000 needed to field the baseball and softball teams: Mike Cefalde of Austintown; Phillipp Panno of Youngstown, who played baseball for a junior college in Florida; Jim Emmerling, president and owner of EM Media, Steubenville; John Zizzo of Youngstown; and Frank Mioduszewski of Steubenville.

Because plans to offer sports remain “in the early stages,” as Bruce noted, he was short on specifics. While the main campus of Eastern Gateway is in Steubenville, the baseball and softball games could be played within a short drive of the Valley campus.

No efforts have been made to recruit baseball or softball managers and coaches, who likely would be volunteers.

SInce Eastern Gateway has campuses in Steubenville, Youngstown and Warren, it would be a challenge for students in Youngstown and Warren to make practices in Belmont County, Bruce allowed, but “the 65 miles [between Youngstown and Steubenville] will not be a barrier.” The distance between campuses is “why I’m very cautious,” he said, about the venues where Gators would hold practices and play their games.

He has held “general discussions” with the presidents of other community colleges in northeastern Ohio about fielding and operating sports teams and talked with the administrators of public high schools about venues where Eastern Gateway Gators might play their baseball, softball and basketball games.

Bruce does not envision offering athletics scholarships to athletes but did note, “a lot of academic scholarships are available” to athletes who qualify for financial aid.

And Bruce hopes that funds raised for the sports program would suffice to underwrite their costs of operation, that no student tuition would be allocated for sports operations. The fees to join the junior college counterpart of the NCAA or Ohio Community College Athletic Conference might come out of the general operating budget.

“Sports unites communities,” Bruce declared, and Gators playing intercollegiate athletics would help increase school spirit and give students who commute reason to remain on campus. He sees a sports program as a tool for retention, especially members of the teams.

Pictured: Mike Cefalde, Phillip Panno, EGCC President Jimmie Bruce, Jim Emmerling, John Rizzo, Frank Mioduszewski.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.