No. 9: GCCC ends men's soccer, starts men's golf


Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of 10 stories counting down The Telegram's top 10 sports stories of 2011 as chosen by The Telegram staff.

Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of 10 stories counting down The Telegram's top 10 sports stories of 2011 as chosen by The Telegram staff.


One might call it a perfect storm.

That's what some may have thought happened when Garden City Community College's new president, Herbert Swender, announced on May 17 that he was eliminating the Broncbusters' men's soccer program after six years of existence.

By June 3, Swender had made the decision to resurrect a men's golf program that had been eliminated in 1993.

Several factors led to the eventual elimination of a men's soccer program that had been highly successful under coach Stephen Gorton.

First, new guidelines were being introduced for 2011 by the NJCAA, under which GCCC operates, that would have limited the Busters' soccer team to four international student-athletes on its roster. During its final season of competition, 2010, Gorton had nine international players on the roster and only three players were from Kansas.

While the soccer program had been in place for six seasons, Gorton, a Michigan native, had guided the team from 2007 to 2011. During his tenure, the Busters grew into one of the elite programs in the country, being ranked from 2008 to 2010, and finishing fourth at the 2008 NJCAA national tournament. The Busters played in three Region VI championship games and compiled an impressive 56-21-3 record under Gorton's tutelage.

Then, on April 16, Gorton announced he was resigning his position to accept a coaching position at NCAA Division I Oakland University in Rochester, Mich. His resignation was effective May 14.

That put the wheels in motion to consider whether to continue with men's soccer. The women's soccer program, which had been coached by Gorton's wife, Andrea, in 2010, was left intact and new coach Ki Thornberry was hired.

In meetings during the spring, Swender indicated the men's soccer program had a budget of about $60,000 plus an estimated $12,000 in transportation costs. He indicated that the men's golf program would have a budget of about $40,000.

Swender hired Ryan Martin and Cole Wasinger as his part-time coaches. Martin, the head golf professional at The Golf Club at Southwind, was named the head coach, while Wasinger, the head professional at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course, was named the assistant.

Citing the fact the golf courses in Garden City are of a high caliber, Swender said he was positive the change was the right one.

"Garden City is fortunate to have two championship golf courses that will attract student-athletes from our service delivery area and the tri-state region," Swender said.

During one meeting of the GCCC board of trustees, a petition to retain soccer was presented with more than 400 signatures. A typical GCCC home soccer game attracted less than 50 fans over the past several seasons.

Prior to the decision to re-start the men's golf program, Buffalo Dunes had been selected to host one of the "designated" Kansas Jayhawk Conference tournaments in the fall.

GCCC officials decided in the summer to begin its men's program in the fall of 2011 and were able to recruit seven players to comprise its first team since 1993. Of those seven, five were from south-central or southwest Kansas, and the remaining two were from the Oklahoma and Texas panhandle areas.

The Busters golf team competed in five fall tournaments, placing fourth, sixth and fourth in the three designated Jayhawk Conference tournaments, placing eighth in the Ryan Palmer Invitational in Texas against a field comprised mostly of four-year schools, and then finishing its fall campaign with an 11th place finish in a field of 12 teams at the NJCAA Preview at Sand Creek Station in Newton, site of the 2012 NJCAA Championship, where most of the field was comprised of the country's elite junior college programs.

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