Commentary

Michael 'Mac' McBride on the eye-opening attractions of junior colleges

Junior college is a new world for Michael “Mac” McBride. The Birmingham, England native arrived on the Blinn College campus in 2019, after a career at four-year institutions. He is amazed by the power and possibilities of two-year schools, both academically and athletically. He has had his hands full -- in addition to coaching the men’s and women’s teams, he teaches kinesiology -- but it’s been rewarding.

McBride is eager to spread the word about the value of junior college for student-athletes. And he believes that level of soccer is positioned well for a post-COVID world.

An All-Region player at Walsh University near Akron, Ohio, from 1995-98, he began coaching as a graduate assistant. He was named head men’s coach at Notre Dame College in 2001, when the Cleveland-area school first admitted males. “In the blink of an eye” he recruited 35 players – more than one-tenth the total number of men there.

The school transitioned from NAIA to NCAA Division II ranks. The Falcons won conference championships, and reached the 2010 NAIA national championship final. McBride’s players earned athletic and academic honors. Soccer helped create school spirit, and unify the student body.

After three seasons as head women’s coach at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana – where the Colonels earned the highest grade-point average in their history, and clocked the highest annual community engagement hours ever – he moved one state west.

Before arriving in Brenham, Texas, McBride’s contact with junior colleges was limited to recruiting. Academics, he had heard, may not have been those students’ strong suits.

He soon learned otherwise. With a handsome campus and residence halls for students, it serves as a gateway to four-year schools.

Academics is a high priority. Many students could enroll directly at an NCAA school, but prefer to test the waters first at a junior college. The women’s team has a 3.4 GPA, McBride proudly notes.

Blinn is surrounded by talent. Equidistant between Houston and Austin, it is a prime location for players looking to polish their game before moving to a four-year institution.

In his first season, McBride adjusted to coaching two teams simultaneously -- not uncommon in the junior college ranks. He relied on his organizational and time management skills. But, he notes, “there’s negligible difference in the sessions. The women do the same as the men.”

When COVID struck, “20 years of experience went out the window.” He and his players learned a great deal about themselves, each other, and adaptability.

Blinn instituted multiple and strict testing and other protocols. The team trained very little in the fall. Even now, as Texas opens up quickly, the school’s rules are far stricter than the state’s.

Unlike the NCAA, the National Junior College Athletic Association has allowed in-person recruiting for a while. However, Blinn prohibited it until March 22.

When McBride hits the road, he’ll talk with potential student-athletes whose lives have been upended. Some may be considering junior college because their family’s financial situation has changed. After a year of a different type of schooling, some might be reassessing what college means to them. Others who may have wanted to leave the area now prefer to stay closer to home. Blinn is talking with a young woman who de-committed from the University of Arkansas, for that reason. “That’s a D-I school!” McBride says. “That would have been out of the question before.”

Importantly, the NJCAA – like the NCAA and NAIA – is not charging any players this year with a season of competition. Some Buccaneers may stay an extra year on campus, yet retain two more years’ eligibility at a four-year school.

The impact on Class of 2021 recruits is large, and still unknowable. McBride says it may take a couple of years to sort itself out.

When he talks to recruits, McBride emphasizes the importance of earning their two-year associates’ degree. It’s important for a career – and it signals to the coach of a four-year school that the student-athlete is capable of finishing what they start.

Though NCAA schools are cutting athletic programs -- with some even in danger of closing themselves -- McBride is bullish on junior colleges. They serve important needs in their communities. They create important “student experiences” that transcend athletics. And in Texas, there are more than enough quality players to keep the junior college pipeline filled.

“My eyes have been opened,” he says. “Junior college soccer is a whole lot of fun.”

4 comments about "Michael 'Mac' McBride on the eye-opening attractions of junior colleges".
  1. Ric Fonseca, March 15, 2021 at 4:22 p.m.

    Hey Dan Woog, thank you very much for the article that is very dear to my heart, that is on the joys, trials and tribulations of the "junior college" experience!  I say "dear" to my heart as I am one of those "junior college," students that eventually found my way to a four year California State University (then CSU Hayward, now CSU East Bay) and then to grad school at UCLA. But even more importantly, as a 40-year recently retired "community college" instructor in the Los Angels Community college District.
    Actually, I need to add here the words of a former colleague of mine who bravely "put another visiting academic in his place when she corrected him during a meeting, when she said, "Excuse me, but we are community colleges, and we're not junior to anyone!"  Now mind you, this admonishment has stuck in my mind for several decades, and all I can say is that I then completely agreed with her.  And because the California Community Colleges, that I believe number over 125, provide the first two years of a four-year university, were directed to provide the frshman and sophomore years of a four-year program.  Now, the complete history of the then California Poset Secondary Commission report of the early '60s also decreeed that the then "junior colleges," most if not all, were connected or affiliated with local school districts, also decreeing that they would be then called community colleges, and up and until a certain conservative governor, community colleges would be tuition-free.  State Universities were authorized to provide the usual undergraduate degrees (B.A./ B.S.) and the UC system the same but with expanded graduate degrees PhD, LLD, MD's etc.
    Athletically, the California Community Colleges offer a plethora of intercollegiate sports, and though "tuition" is now charged, the costs are fairly affordable.  Furthermore, athletically speaking, the Calif Community College have their own intercollegiate athletic board and, do not belong to the NJCAA, have their own playoff structures, and of interest, there are only two fully recognized "junior colleges."  
    There is obviously a heck of a lot more involved, and I can unabashedly tell you that there are some California Community College soccer programs that can and do, give a local four-year university athletic program a run for their money. 
    Now you might ask yourself how do I know so much?  I worked for more than forty years in the California Community College system, and recently retired from Los Angeles City College, that was recently ranked in the national top ten community colleges, and Second in the State.  If you need more clarification vis-a-vis the myriad regulations, etc. please drop me a line. 

  2. Ric Fonseca, March 15, 2021 at 4:33 p.m.

    To clarify a bit on my above comment: The California Post Secondary Commission, then decreed that "junior colleges" could establish and maintain their own Boards of Trustees, and offer wht are knwon as "Associate Degrees," and aonyone eighteen years of age, high school graduates or not, they be admitted.  Each Community College District authorizes a transfer program to a four-year university after a student completes their transfer program in their respective field. The articulation agreements" e.g. the minimim transfer requirements depends on a university, although this does not mean a student is bound to a specific (public) university, because many private universities that play in iether D1, 2, or 3, or even NAIA, may admit community college student-athletes. 
    As I said above, there is a lot left to be explained, such as why do the California Community College intercollegiate athletic programs do not belong to the NJCAA? 

  3. Mark Landefeld replied, March 16, 2021 at 4:20 p.m.

    First, a salute to all your service to the CCC environment, Ric.

    With the various "Promise" programs, most in-state Full-Time students can now attend "tuition" free.

    We have take a great step back towards the promise of the 1960 California Master Plan for Education.

    And the CCCAA and NJCAA were beginning to map out truly National championships prior to Covid19.  Our NWAAC Colleagues in OR, WA & ID are to be included in this effort.

  4. Ric Fonseca, March 20, 2021 at 5:29 p.m.

    Mark, thanks for the clarification. the first time I enrolled Merritt College, and pay a twenty dollars registration fee and a couple of bucks more in February 1962 (had a three year academic leave to serve in the US Army) and between $25-40 bucks per semester.My GI Bill allotment allowed me to go full time and transfer to CSU Hayward. I remember my per quarter registration tuition was around $200, paid by my GI Bill, that also enabled me to transfer to UCLA for grad school. I had a few months left from my GI Bill, but even then I still had to cover living expenses and additional registration fees/tuition that I supplemented when I was awarded a scholarship to continue my grad studies.when I got a tenure-track position at L.A. Mission College, in 75, the registration fee was affordable for though foreign and out of state students paid slightly more.But I do very vividly remember that governor Dukemeijian, implemented a registration fee, later to be called tuition, saying that if students could very well afford to pay for a six pack of beer, then they could and should very well afford to pay a per unit fee. I do not recall per unit rates, I vaguely remmber them sarting out at around $60/unit full time student, then the bill would total over $700 per semester (not including living/commuting or textbook expenses) now, forty-plus years later, students must pay I believe around or over $100 per unit full or part time and of course out of state or foreign students pay much more.As for the "tuition free" admission to attend a California Community College, it mostly sits with each Community College District's Board of Trustees - whether they rule the roost of a multi-campus district like the L.A. District nine separate campuses - or a single campus district such as Glendale or Pasadena As for intercollegiate athletic scholarships, well, to my knowledge they aren't in existence in the L.A area; financial aid, yes in the form of Pell Grants or EOP programs, and in some instance a specific community college may have a College Foundation Board that may offer not an "athletic scholarship," mind you, but a specific scholarship for a specific major.

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