Nov 14, 2011

Apparently, nobody cares about junior college athletics

If you were in Oregon City on a Saturday afternoon in the mid 1970s, it's likely that your plans would include taking in a football game. And not by driving down to Eugene or Corvallis, but right there in the city. You'd pack your food and beverage of choice and head over to a packed Pioneer Stadium and take in real college football with several thousand other fans.

Fans cheer on the Clackamas Community College Cougars 
football team during the 1971 football season. College 
football was one of the hotter tickets in town and drew 
extensive coverage from local media before being cut after 
the 1977 season.
Community College football wasn't the only sport that drew the attention of the community. Basketball games held in Randall Hall were full, complete with a pep band and a cheer squad. Football and basketball games were covered by the Oregonian and people came from all over the area to watch the teams play. After all, the college sports teams were made up mostly of home grown players from schools just a few minutes drive away.

That was the '70s. Somewhere along the line, things changed. Football was cut in 1978, and many sports have been added since, but attendance and fan support seems to have dwindled miserably. Often times a women's soccer game can't muster more fans than players and the holes in the audience at basketball games would imply that the teams are terrible and not worth watching. This, however, is completely backwards. Clackamas has built one of the strongest athletic programs in the entire league, winning 16 NWAACC titles and one NJCAA title since 2000. They've taken either first or second 32 times in the last 11 seasons including back to back men's basketball titles in 2009-10 and back to back women's soccer titles in 2004-05.

That begs the question: where are all the spectators? Normally when a team has success, the fans follow. In this case, the success is largely unknown to outsiders. Few even know about the 2011 NJCAA title won by the wrestling team. Even fewer know that women's soccer has advanced to the NWAACC final four six out of the ten years they've been playing at Clackamas.

I happen to think that sucks. And it's not entirely on the Athletic Department. That is happening at the junior college level all over the north west. Media coverage has gone down the toilet, fans have dwindled to naught and the programs are often dismissed as "just community colleges."

The source for that, I think comes from several different places. The first is that it's much easier now to see sports without getting off of your living room couch. ESPN made things easy enough, but with the rise of handheld technology like the iPad and the the Android, fans can see stats, highlights and even stream televised games live wherever they are.

That's a far cry from the '70s and '80s where the hometown team was by far the easiest team to watch. It wasn't division one, but by golly it was still college football right in our backyard.

That leads to another reason. Many many years ago, the college teams in the state of Oregon were good for nothing. They were at the bottom of the then Pac-8, and were hardly worth watching. Memories from those decades are mostly bad, including the 1983 "toilet bowl", a civil war ending in a scoreless tie and featuring eleven fumbles, five interceptions and four missed field goals.

In recent years, things have changed around. Not only is college football considerably better at Oregon and Oregon State than it was years ago, but they've improved in many sports across the board. Fans who wouldn't have been caught dead in Ducks gear now sport it proudly and the home town team is thrown to the wayside.

I think it's time there was a little bit of a revival. Yes, there are more players from outside the area than there used to be, but it's still a chance to see high school stars compete at the next level. The rosters are filled with athletes from Molalla, Rex Putnam, Oregon City, West Linn, Gladstone and Estacada, to name a few.

They're home grown, they're home town and they're good. Why not give it a chance? After all, retro is making a comeback.

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