For the past two weeks, the sports world has lived a polarized life, with the hoopla surrounding a Super Bowl combined with the heartbreak of losing Gianna and Kobe Bryant, as well as baseball coach John Altobelli and his wife, Keri, and daughter, Alyssa; Sarah and Payton Chester; basketball coach Christina Mauser; and pilot Ara Zobayan.
Slowly but surely, life has a tendency of returning to some sort of normal — a reflection of Kobe’s Mamba Mentality, a resilience that we all share to live life by tackling our next goals.
Unfortunately, there is a local program that seems to have lost focus on those goals — and it has been going on for far too long.
Maybe it’s ultimately reflective of a school that can’t seem to balance its budget or properly market itself to make sure enrollment doesn’t dip, but the Santa Barbara City College men’s basketball program is a local laughing stock — and that’s highly unfortunate.
And while losing by an average of 24.6 points per game this season is eye-opening, it should come as no shock considering the last 30 years under head coach Morris Hodges.
In sports, it’s great to have “nice guys,” and Hodges definitely falls into this category. He’s sincerely a good man.
But mediocrity isn’t accepted — in sports, in business, in life.
Since Hodges took the reins 30 seasons ago, he has posted a 260-544 overall record, including a 1-20 thus far this season. His overall winning percentage? A ghastly .323 — great for a baseball player, dismal for a college basketball coach.
Over those three decades, Hodges has had two winning seasons (1996-97 and 2006-07) and has finished conference play in second place just once, and third place five times.
His teams have gone winless in conference six times (including the past two seasons, and currently sit 0-7 this season) and tallied one win three more times.
That means in 30 percent of Hodges’ seasons the team had one win or less in conference action.
The 2019-20 season will mark a 13th consecutive losing campaign for the Vaqueros, which was preceded by a nine-year streak from 1997-89 through 2005-06.
Hodges started his tenure with the school with six straight losing seasons.
To compare apples to apples, Hodges took over a program that saw Frank Carbajal enjoy eight winning seasons over his 10 years at the helm, including four conference titles and three top-four finishes at the state tournament.
Winning is possible at SBCC — if the school wants it bad enough.
But, speaking of bad, the program is mired in a 30-game conference losing streak, with the Vaqueros losing by an average of 26.8 points per game, including an astounding 36.9 points per game this season.
SBCC’s last conference win came on Feb. 8, 2017, a 80-76 win over Oxnard.
Since then, here are some mind-boggling numbers:
• 50-plus point losses: 3
• Losses by 40-49 points: 2
• Losses by 30-39 points: 7
• Losses by 20-29 points: 7
• Losses by 10-19 points: 8
• Losses by 1-9 points: 3
And there are still five more conference games to go this season . . .
For a moment, let’s table these numbers and let’s focus on the more important part of being a student-athlete — the academic side.
Recently, in a press release, Hodges said this about a 91-33 loss to Hancock:
“We lost three guys at the semester because of academics.”
The rest of the quote doesn’t matter, it was more excuses about injuries.
As a coach, you have a responsibility to the young men on your team, and that goes beyond the court.
Yes, taking class seriously sits first and foremost with the student. So shame on them.
But, as a mentor and coach, it is also on Hodges to make sure this is never an excuse.
It’s one thing to lose on the court. It’s another to lose off of it.
That’s a reflection of program complacency, and the last I checked, SBCC is hurting for money in all corners of the campus, so how can it continue to justify supporting a program that is basically throwing away money?
According to Transparent California — a website that tracks the salaries of state employees — Hodges pulled down $141,093.73 in totally pay in 2018, a year that saw the team go 3-24 overall.
In terms of complete compensation (which includes benefits), Hodges has seen this increase every year since 2013, according to Transparent California:
• 2013: $123,627.66
• 2014: $129,076.93
• 2015: $141,641.26
• 2016: $146,598.50
• 2017: $161,176.17
• 2018: $162,678.97
• 2019: $171,656.33
In crunching the numbers, that would be $38,387.25 per win since 2013, a time that has seen just 27 victories for the program.
Admittedly, that’s an oversimplification of his compensation, as Hodges is a physical education professor on campus, so his salary is not completely based on just coaching the men’s basketball team.
On the popular site, RateMyProfessors.com, Hodges has received 13 reviews with an overall score of 3.9/5, with some commenting on the fun nature of his classes, while others questioned his communication skills.
Every professor would tell you that this is par for the course.
So, once again, let’s say we could put this aside, as salaries ideally do increase with longevity with an employer.
What about what the men’s basketball program does in terms of marketing SBCC?
According to CollegeExpress.com, a school’s sports teams are one of the top seven reasons why students choose a school.
So, is a program that has accepted a .297 winning percentage for 30 seasons one that should be taken seriously?
The school can’t even attract local players to stay in town and play for Hodges.
Since the 2013-14 season, only 13 of the 75 players on the official rosters on the team’s website came from Santa Barbara County — a dismal 17.3%.
Out of those, only two stayed with the program for more than one season.
The rosters have been so foreign that Michael Jordan, Scooby Doo, Magic Johnson, Barney Rubble, Fred Flinstone and Jerry West are listed on the 2012-13 roster — yes, this is a real thing.
Even that roster only won four games.
And recruiting locally? Forget about it. Been to more than a dozen boys basketball games this season, and no SBCC representation whatsoever.
Other Vaquero programs make the effort — men’s basketball can’t be bothered.
So, if you aren’t winning (because we all know that winning trumps everything); if you aren’t putting academics first; and you aren’t helping the school draw in more students, what exactly are taxpayer dollars going to?
At a time when professors, administrators and others are being let go and positions are being frozen at SBCC, it’s time to let this 30-year trial period come to a conclusion.
Otherwise, the school is openly accepting mediocrity, something none of us can accept.
The past couple of weeks have provided some positive movement on local stadium projects.
First, taking in the UCSB baseball alumni game and seeing Eric Yang christen the new lights at Caesar Uyesaka Stadium with a bomb off former batterymate Rodney Boone was incredible. Sincerely one of the nicest and most genuine individuals to come out of the program, enjoying the literal spotlight after decades of delays that kept the Gauchos playing in the daylight.
Staying with good news, Steve Vizzolini of the Santa Barbara Unified School District says that things are on schedule with the Peabody Stadium project, as they are keeping a close eye on progress to make sure the stadium is good to go for graduation.
The Dons are close to having access to their pool as well, with Vizzolini saying that the boiler replacement is near completion (admittedly, they had hoped to be finished before Feb. 1), and expect that the fix will be complete by the end of this week. The last phase of the project will be reheating the pool and cleaning it, something Vizzolini believe will add another week.
Kudos for being an open book and being accountable to the unfortunate mid-season closure.
We are well past the days where men and women can’t share an athletic field — it actually should happen more often.
Recently, the late Kobe Bryant said, “I think there are a couple of players who could play in the NBA right now honestly.”
He was referring to WNBA superstars Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore and Elena Delle Donne.
And he’s right.
On Jan. 23, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the courage of Isabella Regalado.
Not because she is 6 feet tall, or runs a 4.8-second 40-yard dash.
It’s her heart.
There she was, warming up with Dos Pueblos High’s highly decorated boys wrestling team.
She was stepping in at the 120-pound weight division, taking on Santa Barbara High’s Gabriel Jimenez.
It caught the attention of JR Richards Gymnasium.
Her introduction was met with a bit louder cheering — from both sides.
In the first round, she fought valiantly to stave off being pinned for more than a minute.
She’d ultimately get pinned in the second round.
She didn’t smile and wave, acting as though she was just happy to be there.
She shook the hand of the opposing coach and stormed out of the gym.
She was upset.
Not because she lost.
But because she didn’t win.
Sports needs more of this. It needs more challenge. It needs more unorthodox.
It needs more Isabella Regalado.