Should Washington hit the JCs harder?

We don't normally make our print content available on-line, but we loved Dick Baird's latest contribution to Sports Washington and wanted you folks that don't get the magazine to take a look at what's available in the magazine. Without further ado . . .

There is no doubt that junior college players can often fill key needs when putting together a college football team. However, it is particularly difficult to do so here at Washington for one obvious reason. The University does not offer P.E. or Recreation as a major.

Because of this circumstance, many of the credits that JC players earn are rarely transferable. Consequently, the student athlete is required to take extra courses that will transfer into a major that Washington offers.

More often than not, the main reason kids go to JCs in the first place is because they don't qualify academically for a division I school directly from high school.

It is true that the UW has had many transfers who simply developed more by playing at the JC level and were good students coming out of high school. An example is Hugh Millen, who led the Huskies to the great Orange Bowl victory in 1985. However, the vast majority of the kids who play at that level simply did not qualify coming out of high school. It is either that they did not have the qualifying test score (820 or higher on the SAT, or 68 or higher on the ACT), or they did not have a 2.5 or higher in their core GPA. The core classes cannot include PE, Art, Vocational, Music, or any course that is not classified by the school as an academic class for college preparation. It should be pointed out that a student athlete can take the tests as many times as they wish and are allowed to combine the best total score from the various sections of the test. That is, a kid could use a 600 on the verbal and a 220 on the math. If a kid is a non-predictor, which means he does not receive the combined GPA with the necessary test score, then he is ineligible to play or receive a scholarship.

It should also be pointed out that there is a sliding scale, which allows for a higher test score and a lower GPA or visa versa. Regardless, these are the student athletes who end up at the JC level.

Compounding that is the fact that there are no longer any JCs which play football in our state. This is really too bad, and as a former JC coach myself, I know how much this hurts the kids in the state of Washington and thereby impacts the colleges of our own state. I had coached at Olympic College in Bremerton back when we had a cross-state league and realized that a lot of kids went on to the UW, WSU, Eastern, Central, Western, UPS, PLU, etc. It gave a lot of kids the chance to play after high school as well as the opportunity to develop and move on to a four-year school. The league began dissolving right about when I became a head coach in 1981. Every year we would lose another school until there were only about five of us left who were still competing. The Olympic College Rangers were one of the most successful programs because of strong community support, but I could see the whole system shrinking and moved on to join Coach Don James's UW staff in 1983.

Having no JCs that play football really hurts the in-state schools simply because there were lots of talented prospects who have low grades out of high school but could earn their opportunity to move on. Late bloomers can no longer stay in state and accomplish this. This is a double-whammy because not only are student athletes leaving your state to continue their career, they find that when (or if) they apply to matriculate to the University of Washington, the out-of-state admissions standards for the UW are even more difficult.

That means that even though you were a local high school student, you are going to have a more difficult time getting into Washington if you attended and played football at a JC in California or Idaho.

The fact remains, however, that the Huskies have had many tremendous players that came from junior colleges. The biggest impact came obviously from the great Hugh McElhenny in the fifties, but two other JC players that became Husky heroes included Junior Coffee and Warren Moon. When I was on staff, we brought in players like defensive back Charles Mincy and, of course, tailback Cory Dillon. These players were all simply great players and all had considerable success at the NFL level as well.

Currently, the Huskies added two great athletes to the team in Kai Ellis and Taylor Barton but, because of academics, only got two out of the three they were shooting for when Francisco Tipoti failed to get admitted due to not earning his Associates Degree from City College of San Francisco. However, he could make it back in this winter and therefore be ready for spring ball next April. His clock is running and this year will have to count as his red-shirt year, leaving him two seasons of eligibility once he arrives.

What is the answer in terms of JC recruiting? I believe you will see Rick's staff signing about 2-3 per year from now on.

That being said, Rick will run into one major hurdle in this recruiting process. Other schools will undoubtedly tell JC kids that it will be harder for them to be admitted to the UW, and they will probably have to take extra classes to do so because their Physical Education credits are not transferable.

I was always amazed how Oregon, who also doesn't have PE, could get so many credits transferred which were not admissible here at Washington. WSU, OSU, and USC (because it's a private school) all can accept recreation classes such as dancing, bowling, aerobics, or any PE class such as coaching, weight-training, first-aid, or simply a "competitive athletics" class (which are all taken by JC players because their JC coaches invariably teach them and the coach can get them to pass and therefore stay eligible to play at the JC).

Very few of the classes are accepted here as Washington. So, consequently, it is really difficult to get JC student athletes admitted in the first place.

One other twist has occurred. When the Pac-10 stopped allowing its schools to admit non-predictors, it opened the door for the schools like Fresno State, BYU, the Utah schools and UNLV to go after the non-predictors right out of high school. Those kids that would otherwise have been at a JC are now bypassing the system, thus eliminating them from the pool of available talent.

Additionally, it is well documented that many schools, especially basketball powerhouses like Cincinnati, simply don't care about graduation or academic standards and will recruit the JC or transfer students knowing full well they will only have the kids for two years. They realize that they can put them into similar PE classes and keep them eligible for at least two seasons. It's much easier and more enticing to do in basketball because you only need a couple of kids to turn your entire program around.

Eastern Washington is currently the only in-state University that admits non-qualifiers and they are extremely competitive in their league. Fresno State football is also benefiting this year as well.

I know coach Neuheisel and his staff are currently working hard to get in on a number of quality JC players. They are extremely interested in Gabril Wilson, a lights-out safety out of – guess where – San Francisco City College. Additionally, a soft commit from defensive lineman Chris Solomona (I always consider it soft if they are still going to visit other schools) indicates the Huskies are trying to address some needs at those two particular positions.

This is exactly how to use the Junior Colleges. Supplement your roster with top-quality kids who can come in and provide immediate help at positions of need. The Huskies will always find some. It's just more difficult for them than it is for other schools.

Call toll-free 800-416-1454 to subscribe to Sports Washington Magazine today! 16 issues per year for $39.95. columnist and KJR 950 Sports Radio personality, Dick Baird.
Dick Baird was an Assistant Coach (Linebackers) and Recruiting Coordinator at the UW from 1985-1998. He has joined the staff as a featured columnist for both the web site and Sports Washington magazine. In addition to his regular editorial columns, Coach Baird will try to provide some of his unique perspective by answering a few of your selected questions online. If you would like to send in your questions, please CLICK HERE.

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