Talk about releaguing! In case it’s escaped anyone’s gaze, area junior college play had been switching around various conference affiliations these past few years.
The Inland Empire Conference (IEC) was in its first year of play until … well, you know.
San Bernardino Valley College (SBVC), for instance, was in the old Foothill Conference, governed by onetime CIF Commissioner Dean Crowley, who died a couple years back. Schools like Chaffey-Rancho Cucamonga, Rio Hondo-Whittier, Victor Valley and College of the Desert-Palm Desert (COD) were SBVC’s rivals.
Throw in Cerro Coso, which is in the Kern County city of Ridgecrest.
For a couple years, it was on to the Pacific Coast Conference, which included mostly San Diego County teams like Southwestern-Chula Vista, Grossmont-El Cajon, Mira Costa-Oceanside, San Diego CC, faraway Imperial Valley-Brawley, plus area campus Mt. San Jacinto (MSJ).
JUCO administrators have a lot of decisions to make, including geography, travel costs, scheduling, plus competitive equity. It’s not easy at the JUCO level.
Enter the IEC.
Now it’s geographically centered, depending on the sport. SBVC is affiliated with Barstow, Victor Valley, MSJ, Cerro Coso, Victor Valley, COD, Copper Mountain (Twentynine Palms), Palo Verde (Blythe) and Norco.
Norco, for instance, has men’s and women’s soccer, a sport not offered at Riverside City College (RCC).
Copper Mountain has men’s and women’s hoops, but nothing else.
It’s a lot of work to keep up with all that.
When play resumes ⎯ whenever that takes place ⎯ the IEC will regain its footing.
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It’s eye-opening to be scanning through a nationally based list of 10 scholar athletes from the likes of Louisville, Missouri, Texas, Delaware, St. Joseph’s, Rice, Kentucky and, surprisingly, Cal State San Bernardino.
That particular scholar athlete, Lady Coyotes’ sophomore goalkeeper Carlene Luna, is up for the Arthur Ashe Jr. Scholar Award.
She goes by Carly on the field. Here are some her significant numbers:
There was a 3.83 GPA as a communication major when the requirement was 3.50, plus 27 starts in goal through 2018 and 2019. She posted five shutouts for a less-than-stellar 8-18-1 side, saving 161 shots, plus five trips to the dean’s list and All-Conference Academic honors.
She was a nice pickup for ex-coach LeBaron Holliman. Not a bad pickup for the communication department teachers, either.
It’s why you’re supposed to go to college.
Ashe, of course, is the African American tennis star who won three of the sport’s Grand Slam events, eventually succumbing to AIDS-related symptoms at age 49. There’s lots of remembrances on Ashe.
This is another one.
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There’s someone missing from the California Community College Athletic Association (CCAA) Hall of Fame. I think we’re all still awaiting the selection of Ron Smedley to the vaunted California JUCO honor roll.
A few elite coaching members of the CCCAA Hall of Fame include Bill Walsh and Jerry Tarkanian, Denny Crum, plus a few of my old coach connections from Chabot College-Hayward ⎯ Bruce Werner (American River, Folsom) and Keith Calkins (Saddleback).
Only really covered a few of Smedley’s days coaching football at SBVC, which were sensational throughout the 1990s. That includes a 1992 state championship.
Now-retired Carl Beach, who coached at Bloomington High, served as Wolverines’ assistant for years before landing the head job at Chaffey College, was one of Smedley’s pickups.
A Hall of Fame pickup, in fact. It’s what Hall of Fame coaches do, right? Organize a coaching staff. Fill the roster with pass rushers, blockers, throwers, catchers, runners and tacklers, plus kickers ⎯ and coaches.
Lots of familiar names, including some NFL guys, came through his program.
Seventeen years on the job between 1986 and 2002, the USC product produced a 111-64 overall record, seven conference championships and sent a few bodies to greater glory. The downside is a 14-26 mark over his final four seasons, but still.
This is a Hall of Famer, folks.
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Back to JUCO conference-building.
Unlike formatting a new IEC, football, of course, is an entirely different beast.
Football conferences are made up of hammers and nails ⎯ the hammers being the big hitters while the nails are those getting driven by the hammers. It’s a phrase that first came from Chaffey Athletic Director Jeff Klein, who relayed the phrase through that school’s athletic counselor, Jeff Moser.
I know this will be dramatically insulting and offensive to area JUCOs, but there are campus programs that just can’t compete with high-powered teams. Craft has turned RCC into an immovable force.
I covered Chaffey-at-RCC a few years ago at downtown Wheelock Stadium. Yes, it was one-sided. No, there was no running-clock rule like high school. Yes, I watched game officials work both head coaches to come away with a “running-clock” type rule for the game’s final five minutes.
It was simple: Snap the ball. QB handoff to a RB. A simple tackle. Punt. Other side, similar. Run the clock out.
There were at least three ambulance rides that took Chaffey players away from Wheelock.
For years, it didn’t seem logical to lock high-powered Riverside City College into a conference with COD, SBVC, Mt. San Jacinto and Victor Valley. RCC was the hammer. All others were the nails.
Geographically, it made sense. Competitively, not quite.
In its own conference, Riverside was connected with the likes of Mt. San Antonio-Walnut, Fullerton ⎯ teams with fully-fledged hammer-hitters ⎯ in a far different conference than the nail-biters.
(Got a sports tip amid COVID-19 sit-out days? Want to talk sports? Contact me at email@example.com.)