Snow keeping football, even with collapse of league
By James Tilson
EPHRAIM—Snow College has decided to keep playing football, even though all of Snow’s league opponents have eliminated their football programs, putting the Western States Football League (WSFL), part of the National Junior College Athletic Association, out of business.
“We are committed to maintaining the national prominence of the Snow College football program,” Snow Athletic Director Rob Nielson said. “We have been in negotiations with other leagues to ensure our program not only continues, but also that we will be able to maintain our standing as one of the top junior-college football programs in the nation.
“Our football program is important to the school, for adding diversity and new students to our enrollment. We’re keeping it, and we going to move forward with a new league.”
Nielson told the Messenger Snow had been talking with the Kansas and Texas junior college football leagues and was hoping to decide by the first of the year where the Badgers would compete next year.
The troubles in the WSFL started last year in Arizona, when the legislature decided to eliminate state funding for community college systems. That forced the institutions to reevaluate how they would continue to survive.
Earlier this year, the Maricopa Community College District—which comprises Glendale, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Mesa community colleges—decided, as part of that effort, that 2018 would be their last year for football. But that still left Pima Community College, Arizona Western, Eastern Arizona and Snow in the WSFL.
Then about a month ago, Pima Community College announced it was giving up football. Arizona Western followed suit Dec. 2, and on Monday, Eastern Arizona College fell in line with the other Arizona schools.
In a press release issued Tuesday, Eastern Arizona President Todd Haynie said, “This has been an extremely difficult decision we have been forced to make. We understand the profound consequences this has to our student-athletes, their dedicated coaches and our passionate supporters. However, with the drastic changes taking place within the league that are outside our control, and as stewards entrusted with public funds, we must conclude that an altered program will not allow EAC to maintain a balance of costs and benefits.”
On top of the other issues, Snow College also had to replace its head football coach. Paul Peterson, the head coach for the past two years, announced two weeks ago that he was taking over the program at Dixie State, which is planning to make the jump into NCAA Division 1 status soon.
Snow moved quickly to find Peterson’s successor, promoting Andrew Mitchell, the offensive coordinator under Peterson, to the top job. Like Peterson, Mitchell is an alum of Snow College’s football team.
“Coach Mitchell has been at the forefront of the team’s success over the past two years, and uniquely qualified to step in and take over the reins of our nationally-ranked football team,” Nielson said.
After helping Snow College football team get into the 2007 NJCAA national championship game, Mitchell went on the play two years at Oklahoma State University and then had stints in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals, Seattle Seahawks and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Unlike two-year schools in Arizona which now must be locally supported, Snow College receives good support from the Utah Legislature. The college also raises significant funds from donors and foundations.
This is evident in the new buildings that have gone up in recent years, such as the science building finished just last year. The school also installed a new turf field for the football programs just two years ago and broke ground on a new athletics building at the south end of the football field this fall.