Former SMC players, coach react to return of sports

DOWAGIAC — When Southwestern Michigan College announced it was adding four more sports to the newly restored cross country program, several former Roadrunners were excited to hear the news.

The SMC Board of Trustees recently announced that during its regular meeting on May 12, unanimously authorized the SMC administration to revive four additional intercollegiate sports for fall 2022, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s volleyball and men’s wrestling.

Scott Rose, who played for SMC in 1979-81, said he was glad to see basketball return.

“My first year there was 1979-80, and I played for Coach Jim Tansey,” he said. “I got to play on a team with several talented guys I had always played against when I was at Brandywine, as well as a couple of former Brandywine teammates — Mike Dunnuck and Jack Leick.”

After his freshman year, Rose went to Montana Tech in Butte, Montana, to play for former Dowagiac and Michigan State grad, and Jud Heathcoate’s JV coach, Fred Paulsen. Paulsen’s assistant coach at Montana Tech was Kelvin Sampson, the former Indiana head coach.

“I stayed for one and a half months and was probably in the best basketball shape of my life,” Rose said. “Various things didn’t work out for me there, and I came back, took a few classes at SMC and an offseason, and then got to play for Denny Parks for the 1981-82 season.”

Rose recalled being the tallest member of that Roadrunner team at 6-foot-4.

“I had great teammates from Niles [Joe Avance and Walter Smoot], Elkhart and Michigan City,” Rose said. “Best memory from my playing days was beating the always very strong Jackson Community College at their place to end our regular season in 1982.”

Todd Hesson

Todd Hesson, the former Niles wrestling coach, was a Roadrunner in the early 1980s. He wrestled for Jim Judd.

“First of all, it makes me reminisce a little bit, which makes me feel very old,” he said. “It is hard to believe that that much time has gone by. I apply it to myself. I was far from very good at anything, but it gave me the opportunity. When you are looking down the road a long way, it was huge for my coaching career. You don’t know it at the time. At the time, you are just hoping to get an education out of it. I think it is fantastic for our area.”

Hesson said it was good not only to see wrestling returning to SMC, but the other sports that are being restored.

Hesson added that with SMC adding wrestling, kids from the area would get a shot at the collegiate level. It will also save parents and students money being that they can stay close to home.

“It gives them a chance to see if they can do this,” he said. “Some of them are going to not finish it, but somebody along the line will continue on and realize that is what they needed. I am a perfect example of that.”

There are currently five junior college wrestling programs in Michigan — Muskegon Community College, Henry Ford Community College, Mott Community College and St. Clair Community College, Then there is Ancilla College in northern Indiana,

Finding additional competition should not be tough as there are several schools in Illinois, including City College of Chicago-Kennedy-King College, Harper College (Palatine, Illinois), Joliet Junior College (Joliet, Illinois), and Triton College (River Grove, Illinois).

David Sidenbender, Brandywine’s current varsity baseball coach, played and coached at Southwestern Michigan College.

Sidenbender played for the Roadrunners from 1989 to 1991. He coached the team from 1993 through 1996.

“I think bringing back sports at SMC is a great idea and a long time coming,” he said. “Sports can help build a school and give it notoriety. With the beautiful dorms that are on campus now, it makes it even more of a great place to continue your education and athletic careers.”

In addition to adding four new sports, SMC is enhancing and expanding gymnasium facilities to better accommodate team sports.

Major elements of the Zollar project will include:

  • Replacement of the original gymnasium floor – which was installed in the 1970s and has reached the end of its useful life – with a new high-grade basketball and volleyball floor
  • Replacement of the original bleachers with a new system that will meet current Americans with Disability Act requirements and provide better comfort and accessibility for fans of all ages
  • Cleaning and painting of the gymnasium ceiling and walls
  • Installation of energy-efficient LED overhead lights
  • Installation of protective padding on both ends of the court to help prevent impact injuries
  • Installation of a new video scoreboard and audio system
  • Construction of new state-of-the-art men’s and women’s locker rooms for the home teams
  • Reconfiguration of the existing men’s and women’s locker rooms for visiting teams
  • Addition of two Officials’ Rooms
  • Addition of a family-friendly restroom for fans
  • Construction of “The Nest,” a second-floor suite of coaches’ offices and gathering area, with a glass wall overlooking the court, suitable for receptions, recruiting or donor events and premium viewing experiences.

The project is expected to cost from $1.8 to $2 million, with the majority coming from the college’s existing Building and Site Fund. Administration plans to raise the balance from naming rights and private donations. Construction will begin in December 2021 and is expected to be completed by July 2022.

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