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“The Legend of Bagger Quinn”

Posted on May 19, 2010 by Patrick Moran

ECC Golf 1Two of the eight sports Erie Community College President Jack Quinn decided in March to eliminate were men’s and women’s golf.  Along with the six different track and field sports, they’re getting the axe when the current season soon comes to a close

According to multiple reports, the expense saved with the purging of the eight sports programs totals roughly $40,000, based on 2008-09 numbers available from U.S. Department of Education— including slightly more than seven grand for golf.

After his preliminary fury wore off upon learning of the cuts, golf coach Don Lockwood went about exploring ways to keep his men’s and women’s teams intact. He concluded the only way to keep his golf program afloat was finding a way to fund it themselves.  After all, seven grand isn’t exactly chump change, but it’s surely not insurmountable by any means.

Lockwood determined the greatest way to augment golfing funds would be to hold an actual golf tournament. He booked Harvest Hill golf course in Orchard Park for Monday August 23rd and the strategy was to use it as a benefit for his teams.  Surely the blend of golf enthusiasts, weekend hackers and student-athlete supporters would make this an easy sell.

“Jack Quinn claims that golf was cut from the budget because of money,” Lockwood said.  “Well after some thinking I decided if money is the real issue, then we would raise it ourselves. Golf means a lot to our kids and for many of them, having a chance to play golf collegiately are a reason they decided to come to E.C.C. in the first place.”

This past Tuesday, Lockwood began sending out a press release to the media in anticipation of generating a publicity buzz for the tournament. The outing would cost $400 for a foursome complete with 18 holes of golf, cart, lunch at the turn and a chicken or steak dinner in the clubhouse.  All proceeds were to go towards offsetting the cost of financially supporting their own team next year.

Within 48 hours, the event was struck down by school Athletic Director Peter Jerebko.

In emails obtained by Buffalo Sports Daily, Jerebko clearly blocks any fundraising efforts from Lockwood and his team.

“As ECC athletic director, I would advise you to again e-mail your list from the Tuesday, May 11 communication and cancel the event if you wish to use “the ECC golf team. Thank you for your understanding in this matter.” Jerebko told Lockwood.

Problem is, neither Lockwood nor anyone else involved with the program do understand.

“We’re told that budget cuts and a lack of funds is the reason for our program being shut down,” Lockwood said.  “Fine, so if it’s all about money we’re willing to go out and raise the money to fund next year on our own.  Now they are not allowing that either.  How can anyone possibly believe that is really just about money?”

“President Quinn’s decision is final and that using the 2010-2011 ECC golf team to raise funds is prohibited from the college’s perspective.” Jerebko said in an email.

What perspective is that? The Quinn-led administration sobs finance and budget cuts as chief reasoning behind the abolition of programs (with potentially more to come), so where’s the hindrance with the students raising the money themselves?

Multiple attempts by Buffalo Sports Daily to reach Quinn and Jerebko for comment were fruitless, other than a one paragraph statement from Quinn, who informed me he was busy with meetings in preparation for commencement.

“I do find inconsistencies in your email, with what I said to our staff.” Quinn told me.

For starters, I didn’t charge Quinn of making any statements to his staff and I reiterated that I was seeking comment about the administration’s refusal to allow the squads to raise the money on their own, not for him to rehash the reasons behind eradicating the programs.

I got no further response.

Kyle Harman is the captain of the men’s golf team.  The 19-year old former Orchard Park high school student came to E.C.C. with the intention of playing golf and honing his game at the collegiate level. His goal was to play for two years and see where his skills on the course and classroom would take him after.

He’s embittered that his collegiate golf career is ending prematurely.

“I don’t understand why we can’t fund our team,” Harmon said.  “They claim they are shutting down the team for money reasons, but we are willing to pay for it. If we’re willing to raise the money, then what’s the problem?  That makes absolutely no sense at all and it shows that it’s about more than money and there is far more to the story.”

Speaking of money, it’s certainly not at the root of why Lockwood coaches his squad.  His $1,700 stipend for the team barely defrays the cost of putting his kids in day care so he can coach.  He holds a regular job as a Correctional Sergeant and his spare time has been devoted almost exclusively to furthering the golf program.

He said the program was flourishing in the two years he’s been in charge.

“This year we had 27 kids try out for the team and for the first time I actually had to make cuts,” he said. “It became a place where local kids can play golf at the college level and take the same early college courses as any four-year school at a much lesser cost.”

It’s hardly like his team is floundering as an on-field embarrassment to the school. The men’s team is currently one of the top teams in a large and very competitive region.  They currently have two players among the top 15 in the region and just two weeks ago the team smashed its school record for lowest team score at the Tompkins-Cortland Invitational at Elm Tree Golf Course in Cortland.

Lockwood has a specific bond to E.C.C. golf. He was the school’s top golfer when he played there in 1992.

“It was a great experience for me in college and it’s become a great experience for these kids playing right now,” he said. “It’s a shame that it’s getting taken away from them and the board not letting us raise the money on our own just reeks of how political things have gotten.”

Quinn is a career Politician who was handed the E.C.C. job when he retired from his political career as a member of the United States House of Representatives in two districts spanning from 1993-2005. With roughly only $40,000 coming off the school’s budget after these eight program cuts, I’m told by people close to the situation he undoubtedly lacks the insight to see he’s wrong and even after being told by numerous informed people, he still refuses to look elsewhere to save money.

As a local sports lover first and reporter second, I don’t see eye to eye with any of the cuts. But at least until now he’s had the budget defense to exonerate himself of any civic loathing.

Or did they?

I’m told the golf team is fully funded by student activity fees.

ECC Golf 2These kids are frantic to keep their program breathing and are willing to pay their own way to prolong their college athletic careers. Simply put; a tunnel vision, progressively detested front office is not only preventing it, but declining to provide ample clarification why.

Perhaps most disturbing in all this—I’m told the school plans on hiking every student’s activity fees for sports by $25.00 next year. For the record, that’s not a fee that just student-athletes have to pay.  It’s a fee EVERY student that goes to school must pay, whether they play a sport or not and one that despite this entire program hatching nonsense, is being inflated.

Ironically, E.C.C. began the school year with an $112,112 surplus in the athletic department, according to the U.S. Department of Education website. In other words, they’re not losing money.

But don’t take that from Quinn.

“I believe this is a reasonable response to the toughest economic times we’ve seen in decades,” Quinn was quoted as saying in the Buffalo News in a late March interview.

This Quinn-led administration is proving this digs far deeper than merely program funding.  Perhaps if the consultant’s report was made public, as it was three years ago when done by the same firm under a different administration, we’d have a much better understanding.

But that’s not going to happen, is it?

At the risk of sounding exceedingly cliché, it should come down to the simple solution Lockwood hatched.  If they’re willing to pay–then let them play.

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4 Comments on “The Legend of Bagger Quinn”

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  2. Ken

    Once a scumbag politician always a scumbag politician

  3. ECC Golf Headed to NJCAA Tourney For Second Time Ever : Buffalo Sports Daily

    [...] tournament for E.C.C. Golf.  The team is having the program cut from the school.  Read about that controversy by clicking here. Share and [...]

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