SRJC athletics attracts talent

Brennan Cole, Staff Writer

Darrel Deflorimonte, 20, from Ontario, Canada, visited Simon Fraser University in British Columbia when a group of former Santa Rosa Junior College football players approached him about the SRJC football program and coach Lenny Wagner.
“They all raved about Wagner as a coach and told me that he is always looking out for the best interest in all of his players,” Deflorimonte said. “They also stressed the amount of time Wagner devotes towards helping all of his players get recruited to the next level.”
So he moved to Santa Rosa and enrolled this fall at SRJC, playing defensive back for the Bear Cubs.
With high enrollment costs, limited athletic scholarships, and tough academic requirements, four-year universities are out of reach for people like Deflorimonte. Their alternative is to hone athletic abilities and complete units at much more affordable community colleges.
Yet selecting the best community college can often be a dilemma. A general benchmark for student-athletes in determining the impeccable school comprises its overall rankings in athletics as well as its academics. SRJC is unique in that it boasts equally great academics and athletic programs.
“The school provides all kinds of resources to help make life as a student-athlete as easy as possible,” Deflorimonte said.
According to the Institutional Effectiveness Assessment Report on Benchmarks, SRJC transfer students have higher outcomes than those at other community colleges. Another statistic of interest is SRJC’s successful course completion rates rank higher than the state average.
To accommodate student-athletes overwhelmingly vigorous schedules, SRJC gives them priority registration. Additionally, dedicated counselors assigned to athletes are accessible five days a week to keep the athletes on track.
“The tradition of excellence combined with one of the most iconic campuses in the country, being led by such outstanding faculty has created one of the best college environments in the nation,” said SRJC President Dr. Frank Chong.
Overall, according to the 2013-2014 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup Standings, SRJC’s athletic programs ranked 17th in the nation, and eighth in the state. The Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup is a program honoring institutions that maintain a broad-based program by achieving success in multiple sports, both men’s and women’s.
“The academic and athletic integrity of the college is recognized nationwide as being in the best of the best,” said SRJC volleyball head coach Kaitlin Ferguson.
Whether it’s the training staff, librarians, coaches, alumni or custodians, endless individuals contribute to the school’s excellent reputation of excellence.
“We [SRJC] are lucky enough to have a highly recognized athletic training staff available to aid in injury, recovery and prevention,” Ferguson said. “Not to mention, the staff is globally recognized as a leader in concussion management.”
Men’s basketball head coach Craig McMillan said, “The education has always been a plus here, and if the students work at basketball and school, they will definitely have more options when they graduate than they had coming in.”
With the trickle-down effect of superlative employees, the college reels in proportionately impressive students. Nearly all the sports teams have diverse rosters consisting of student-athletes from throughout the world.
“I have never seen coaching staffs as dedicated as the ones we have here,” Dr. Chong said. “And that includes trainers, equipment managers, players and assistant coaches.”
A wide receiver on the SRJC football team Khirhy Hayes, from Lochraven High, Baltimore, credits a close friend and former Bear Cub for recommending SRJC and raving about his experience.
“My time here has been great, and I’ve met a lot of influential people along the way,” Hayes said. “The countless opportunities available here make Santa Rosa a place accommodating for most anyone.”