Athletic department to fill voids

By Efrain Valdez, Advocate Staff

The athletic department is facing a wave of change within its coaching ranks. In the past three semesters, the department has parted ways with men’s soccer coach Nikki Ferguson, demoted football coach Pat Henderson to defensive coordinator and fired women’s basketball coach Vince Shaw.

This is the most turnover the athletic department has faced since the departures of former Comet football coach Alonzo Carter who is now at San Jose State and former women’s basketball coach Paul DeBolt who is now at Napa Valley College.

Athletic Director John Wade said that the department is “starting over” and that he is trying to put people in place now so when the construction on that side of campus is over, the coaches can “catapult to greatness.” Wade said he has hired former College of the Redwoods soccer coach Pedro CortesGarcia as the new men’s coach and also hired Otis Yelverton as the new football coach. “I’m excited to see how Pedro does.

I hope the college and the community can embrace him,” Wade said. Yelverton is coming back from serving as the assistant director of player personnel for the University of Florida’s football program. “Coach O (Yelverton) was here when coach Carter was here, so he’s very familiar with the campus,” he said.

Despite the recent hirings, the athletic department is still in the process of finding a women’s basketball coach to replace Shaw. The department is looking to position itself to be a contender in the Bay Valley Conference once again after building winning traditions with football, men’s soccer, men’s basketball and women’s basketball.

“I feel like we should be competitive in the BVC. Just five years ago we were dominating almost everything,” Wade said.

Even though DeBolt and Carter were a huge part of the success of the athletic department, Johnson’s men’s basketball team has been competitive and Ferguson’s men’s soccer team was a championship contender every year. Wade said, “It’s one of those things I can’t get into. I just have to move forward,” regarding his decision to part ways with Ferguson.

Ferguson said, regarding his removal, the day after a staff meeting in the spring of 2019, he had a one-on-one with Wade the following day. “I had an individual meeting with Mr. Wade,” Ferguson said. “He started the meeting by saying how he really didn’t know me until I got here and that he had relationships with some other coaches before they were here. It snowballed from there. Then he said he felt that we could no longer work together.”

Ferguson said that he told Wade he did not agree with the decision, but that he respects it. During the 2019 men’s soccer season, CCC went 2-16-1, finished last in the BVC and interim coach Rudy Zeller quit halfway through the season.

According to former Comet defender Raul Garcia, the team was put into a tough position after the end of the 2018 fall season. The team felt the department should have done more to avoid the cancellations of the final game that left them out of the playoffs.

“We just wanted answers because it was the last game of our careers for many of us. Then, when coach was fired, we were even more upset,” Garcia said. The team is hoping to have a fresh start with new coach Cortes-Garcia.

However, Wade’s main focus now is to build a formidable athletic program that can be competitive in the future. He said that when judging a program’s success, you have to look at everything. “I try to look at everything,” Wade said.

“Unfortunately, not all can be judged equally, life isn’t equal. Out of all the schools in the district, we have the best athletic traditions in the area, we’re trying to get back to that,” he said. Wade said that when the department gets stagnant, he gets concerned.

“Baseball has been a thorn in my side for a long time now. The team hasn’t been good in 30 years, so that has been a tough one. I just think we should be better,” he said. He said that he’s happy with the number of students who are transferring to four-year universities from the team, but that they just need to win some games now.