The North Idaho College Board of Trustees voted 3-1 in favor of changing athletic conferences at a board meeting Thursday, March 14.
The transition will move NIC athletics from the National Junior College Athletics Association (Scenic West Athletic Conference) to the Northwest Athletics Association of Community Colleges over a two-year period. The move was proposed to the board by NIC President Joe Dunlap and Athletic Director Al Williams. The only NIC sport that will not make the conference move will be wrestling. To join the NWAACC, all teams must move unless NWAACC does not have a particular sport. NWAACC does not have wrestling; however, there are three colleges in the NWAACC that have wrestling programs and are allowed to compete independently and nationally.
NIC outdoors sports, soccer, golf, and softball will begin competition in the NWACC in fall 2014.
Consistent with national trends, enrollment has begun to decline. The athletic budget now has an operating budget of $2.14 million, which includes grant-in-aid and travel/operation expenses with the majority of its funding drawing from the General Fund. Last semester, NIC’s enrollment declined 10 percent and this semester has continued with an 11 percent decline. In planning for the 2015 budget, it is assumed that enrollment will continue to decline in 2015 by up to another 10 percent.
With the conference move, NIC expects to save about $600,000, mostly in savings in travel costs and grant-in-aid scholarships. In 2003, NIC commissioned an independent consultant to study the conference change, which resulted in a recommendation at that time to make the move. In the 10 years since the study, travel costs have increased dramatically. Burgeoning enrollment numbers kept the Athletic Department’s budget afloat in the last decade, but declining enrollment makes it no longer sustainable.
Currently, the closest school to NIC in the SWAC is College of Southern Idaho -- 515 miles away -- and the furthest is the College of Southern Nevada, which is 1,124 miles away. Other current destinations, for example, include Colorado Northwest Community College (913 miles away) and Western Nevada College (874 miles away). The majority of the 34 colleges in the NWAACC are within 450 miles with many such as Wenatchee, Spokane, Moses Lake, Yakima, Walla Walla, and Pendleton being three to four hours away.
The proposed transition to the NWAACC will preserve existing athletic programs and opportunities for students, preserve coaching jobs, create a sustainable financial model for athletics, and preserve gender equity opportunities for all student athletes.