‘‘Athletics have been part of the culture of Mississippi community colleges going back to the 1920s,’’ he said.
Lewis said that community colleges should look at becoming more efficient with their athletic programs. Options include limiting the size of travel squads, reducing coaching staffs or opting for opponents that require less travel, he said.
By far the biggest cost though is athletic scholarships, Lewis said. PRCC has more than 150 athletes on full or half scholarship.
Given the economic climate, that kind of spending may not be viable anymore, Turner said.
‘‘The university and community college system’s first order of business is education,’’ he said. ‘‘It is fun to play football and basketball, but few people make a living at it.’’
Lewis said athletic programs provide academic opportunities above and beyond athletes who are not ready or skilled enough for Division I programs. They’ve also given a reason for existence of other scholarships programs such as the marching band, dance and cheer team and cheerleading, he said.
‘‘When you eliminate those programs, you eliminate opportunities for young people,’’ Lewis said.