Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference adjusts out-of-state scholarship restrictions

Charles Chaney
Butler County Times Gazette
Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference Commissioner Carl Heinrich speaks at the annual KJCCC Media Day at Riverfront Stadium, Home of the Wichita Windsurge in Wichita, Kansas on Wednesday, July 28.

WICHITA—Five years ago, then Garden City head football coach Jeff Sims demanded the Kansas Jayhawk Community College conference change their scholarship restrictions to unlimited out-of-state scholarships. He claimed it was discrimination and even had the NAACP involved. 

The presidents of Kansas community colleges gave in, removing the 20 out-of-state scholarship restrictions and letting a preverbal wild wild west ensue. 

Five years later, the administration at the two schools who pushed it the most, Independence Community College and Garden City Community College are largely gone and the football coaches have changed, too. The league has since moved their restrictions back to an "acceptable" number. 

"I don't think there was discrimination taking place,"  KJCCC Commissioner Carl Heinrich said. "I don't think it played an issue as much as they said."

When 2017 rolled around, the league had gone to full scholarships as well, where previously they were only allowed to match the Division II NJCAA definition of books, tuitions and some supplies for the classes. Since then, they have been able to provide all, tuition, books, room and board, plus other fees and supplies. 

Originally, the new by-law would have increased the out-of-state limitations to 30 student-athletes. Instead, with the pressure from other administrations with potential lawsuits based on discrimination, the presidents made the unanimous decision to allow unlimited out-of-state scholarship and 85 scholarship athletes for football. 

"I think 55 is fair," Heinrich said. "It was the president's decision. They want to see more Kansas kids on the field on Saturday's."

One of the requirements when the by-law was changed is out-of-state scholarships had to be paid by foundations or booster clubs, so not to take money away from Kansas student-athletes. This helped spur change back in the other direction when the Butler County Times-Gazette first reported this agreement in 2019.

"It's a cost for the institution as well," Heinrich said. 

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Other coaches like Carson Hunter of Fort Scott disgrees with what other coaches around the league have said about the "Kansas kid," citing he thinks there are a lot of really good kids to play at this level.

"I didn't listen to them when they said the Kansas kid wasn't up to the level of Missouri or even a Texas," Hunter said. "We went out and got the right Kansas kids for our program and we want to control the I-69 area."

Independence, a school that has become notorious for their lack of Kansas student-athletes said they signed 23 in-state recruits this season as they try to adjust to the 55-man out-of-state restrictions. 

"We have to do a better job of recruiting the state of Kansas, so we can be competitive in this tough conference," Independence Head Coach Jason Martin said. 

For schools like Butler, there won't be much change as they have been the one school to consistently hit the state in recruiting more than any other KJCCC program. According to the rosters on the KJCCC website, Butler had 40 in-state rostered players, while the rest of the seven teams only had 41.

"I think we're going to see it effect the quality of depth for some teams," Schaffner said. "You saw it the last few years, teams would just bring in guy after guy and you were just having to defend these great players. I think we're going to see teams who won't have that depth as much anymore."

Only 81 of the 556 rostered players were from the state of Kansas (14.6 percent). Excluding Butler's totals, Only 41 of 480 players are from the Sunflower state (8.5 percent). 

For some schools the roster changes may not be as impactful as it would be for someone like Independence, who was the only school that rostered a full 85 players. Half of the league had less than 69 players on a roster. One of those schools, Fort Scott will have a full 90-man roster this season. The other three, Coffeyville, Dodge City and Highland already planned to hit the state hard.

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The main goal Heinrich said is to give the Kansas kids a chance and that they deserve a chance. 

"There are a lot of really good kids here in the state," Heinrich said. "Teams are going to have to be more selective and they may not be able to miss. This may help some of our programs that have been struggling to get some players because of it."

It's in the conference's name, "Kansas." That's what is ultimately to the league the most important thing with this change. 

"The main thing is we need the best Kansas kids playing JUCO football and having the opportunity," Heinrich said.

Charles Chaney has been the Sports Editor for the Butler County Times-Gazette since Aug. 2019. You can reach him at cchaney@butlercountytimesgazette.com or on Twitter at @ChuckChaneyBCTG.