You would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the city of Long Beach with a better understanding of collegiate athletics than Bill Husak. As a member of the community for over four decades, Husak was a professor and department chair at Long Beach State, spent 20 years as the Athletic Director at Loyola Marymount University, and is currently serving as the Interim Athletic Director at Long Beach City College.
As the global pandemic continues to run its course, plans for how to safely reopen parts of our society are being formulated in real time. Likewise, decisions to preemptively cancel or adjust plans for the upcoming school year have already been made. The California State University (CSU) system has already announced that its fall semester will take place exclusively online, while the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA)–an NCAA Division II athletics conference comprised of CSU institutions–has suspended all athletic activity this coming fall.
As major decisions are made, impacting the months and years ahead for student-athletes across the country, Husak made his thoughts public about the importance of athletics at the junior college level and beyond. In an online post entitled “Why Community Colleges and Long Beach City College Should Have Athletics This Year”, Husak outlined the importance of athletics in the community and the benefits it provides for students.
“Everything that generated that article had more to do with opportunities for our student-athletes being lost,” Husak said. “For me, that’s the reason I got into athletics: giving people the opportunity to achieve their goals with sports as a medium.”
The timing of Husak making his thoughts public was motivated by the CCAA’s decision to suspend athletic activity three months prior to the start of the fall semester. The California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) has yet to make its recommendations for the upcoming season, and Husak wanted to make sure his opinion was shared publicly before any final decisions were made at the state level.
“In my mind, sometimes there’s a little bit of a herd effect that can take place with programs, colleges and universities, that if one institution or one league does something, everybody else thinks they should be doing that too,” Husak explained. “I thought that was a very quick decision on the part of the CSU’s. I’m not second-guessing them, I just thought it was quick, and so I wanted to put something out there that was a bit counter to that action.”
Growing up, Husak’s father always stressed the importance of school work above all else. That didn’t stop his athletic pursuits, but it created an inseparable link between the two.
“My dad never signed a permission slip for me in high school; I forged every one,” remembers Husak. “He said, ‘I don’t care if you play or not, just don’t mess up in school.’”
Professionally, Husak’s experience of combining sports and education began at Mynderse Academy in Seneca Falls, New York, where he worked as a PE teacher and coach fresh out of college. Throughout his career, he has served in a number of different roles supporting amateur athletics including a stint as president of the Long Beach Century Club.
“For me, education and athletics always went hand in hand,” Husak said. “When I started coaching high school, I saw the impact athletics had on kids … You see kids that the only reason they’re going to school, attending class, and getting an education is because of athletics. Being in academia for 14 years and then switching over to the athletics side, I’ve always had that appreciation for what athletics can do and how it serves as a carrot for many athletes to get their education.”
In his post, Husak outlines the challenges and drawbacks of distance learning, then discusses the positive role athletics has on the lives of students and on the college as a whole. He pointed out that nearly 40 Vikings each year sign athletic scholarships which help them pursue a four-year degree and continue their playing careers at the next level. Furthermore, Husak offered some statistics regarding LBCC athletes’ performance in the classroom.
“With over 400 Viking athletes, 80 percent of whom are full-time students; their FTES contributes to [the] LBCC budget,” his post read. “The CAL-PASS data states that student-athletes averaged attempting 32.25 units, which is more than double the non-athlete population. Student-athlete GPA’s are .8 higher than non-students and have double the graduation rate.”
Admittedly, the safe resumption of sports is a complex issue that will require approval from several different organizations between now and the fall. In addition to the forthcoming CCCAA guidelines on the fall season, there will need to be approval from the California Community College Chancellor’s office, along with state, county, and city health departments. Finally, Long Beach City College will need to approve a safe return to sports at an institutional level, where budget cuts are expected to be steep for the upcoming year.
“The complexities are multi-layered, but everybody is working very hard to make it work,” said Husak on the school’s efforts to bring sports back. “We’ve worked with our team physician, Dr. Quincy Wang, and our athletic training staff on campus to create a document that works for Long Beach City College. Because not every college has the same facilities and same set of circumstances surrounding how it offers sports.”
Husak acknowledged the inherent risk of resuming athletic activity in the fall, but stressed that sufficient safety measures would be in place to reduce the risks to athletes, coaches and other staff.
“We’re not going to be able to create the perfect environment, the most sterile environment to guarantee 100 percent safety, but nobody can,” Husak explained. “You can’t do it in restaurants and you can’t with shopping … It won’t be a perfect, sterile environment, but it will be a safe environment.”