New rules headline new year in the Jayhawk
By TONY JIMENEZ
Special to The Telegram
The way first-year Dodge City Coach Gary Thomas sees it, the Jayhawk Community College Conference hasn't had eight solid teams — from top to bottom — and has had too many lopsided games for some time. The records and scores back him up.
But Thomas, who coached College of DuPage (Ill.), a non-scholarship school, to a win over Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, a school that offers scholarships, in the Citizen's Bank Bowl last year (42-29), says Kansas jucos should soon be more competitive in conference play and even more prominent on the National JC Athletic landscape with the jump in out-of-state scholarships from 12 last season to 20 in 2013. Rosters will go from 55 to 63 with 43 Kansas players still the max for each school.
Going from what's on paper to what's on the field began with the first pre-season workouts on Aug. 3, with every conference team opening the season Aug. 24.
"The higher out-of-state limit allows schools in less-populated areas to fill some holes in their roster that they couldn't fill with Kansas athletes," said Thomas. "And it allows them to still field a competitive team."
"I think this rule will hurt the Kansas kids," said Dick Foster, a coaching icon while he was at Fort Scott and Coffeyville (1975-88). "More of them will be backups now."
Butler Coach Troy Morrell says there are positives and negatives with the rule. "It reduces the opportunity for Kansas kids to start and/or play in games," he said. "With less Kansas kids potentially on the field, our local stakeholders may feel less connect and therefore be less apt to give money. I'm not sure about everywhere else but at Butler, money doesn't just grow on trees. It must be raised or added to the budget through the school.¬ Neither is easy. But, all teams should have more depth as the season progresses."
Most coaches contend the name of the game is to still recruit the best players, no matter where they are at, and then fit them into their respective systems. "Balanced team play comes down to getting your kids to believe in your system and each other," said Coffeyville Coach Aaron Flores. "I think this conference has more balance than people are giving it credit."
In Thomas' mind the rule change means that Kansas teams will now be on a level playing field with formidable NJCAA schools such as Arizona Western, ASA, N.Y., Georgia Military and Snow, Utah, who offer full scholarships and have no out-of-state limit.
"Any time we can add eight players to our roster that is good," said Fort Scott running backs and tight ends coach Kory Vaught. "It allows us to have more depth in positions that we wouldn't have been able to in the past years."
While lower echelon schools in Kansas may not quickly match what Butler has impressively done on the NJCAA front for years, Thomas harkens back to 2010 when his DuPage team beat Coffeyville in the Graphic Edge Bowl (20-14). He remembers two significant numbers from that game. DuPage had about 80 suited up, Coffeyville about 42. "That was all they had healthy at the end of the year," said Thomas. "It's difficult to stay healthy for a 10-to-12 game schedule unless you are beating people by 60 points every week and your starters don't play much in the second half of most of your games."
Whatever the case, balanced conference team play with more close games is the ultimate goal, according to JCCC Commissioner Bryce Roderick. "We won't know how effective it will be until we get through a season," he said.
How they see the new rule
"There are cost issues for eight more players on buses and more meals, hotel rooms and game apparel. There will be more money spent recruiting out-of-state. Hopefully it will increase parity. We will see." Troy Morrell, Butler
"This new rule has more positives than negatives, for sure.¬ It gives more guys a chance to play college football. This is a good plan to try to¬ bring about more¬ parity." Rion Rhoades, Hutchinson
"In my mind it will still come down to who has the best players in-state.¬ The Kansas players will remain our priority. They will still be the difference in who wins this conference (championship)." Aaron Flores, Coffeyville
"I still truly believe that you must have a good mix of out-of-staters and Kansas players to succeed. It's a formula that paid off for us during my years at Kansas St. (as an assistant coach) and one we are trying to implement here." Matt Miller, Garden City
"...it's a step in the right direction. Now we are able to bring in the best possible talent to match up to a team like Butler. The rule change creates a pretty even playing field." Running backs & tight ends coach Kory Vaught, Fort Scott
"With a bigger talent pool on our active rosters, it will hopefully create more parity within our conference and hopefully help create dominance for the Jayhawk Conference at the top of the NJCAA poll." Gary Thomas, Dodge City
"Nothing else can be done (to help create balance in the conference) in my mind unless you capped how many coaches programs could have on their staff like (NCAA) Division l." Ryan Held, Highland
"I'm not sure of the effects on the Kansas players. We will know more this recruiting season...the marginal players will more than likely decide not to play at the JC level." Steve Carson, Independence