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NWKTC adds basketball to athletic lineup





GOODLAND -- For 25 years, Bill Finley has heard the same complaint from students at Northwest Kansas Technical College -- there's nothing to do in Goodland.

"Now there is," Finley said.

The school is in its second year of offering athletics to its students, with men's and women's wrestling, rodeo, golf and soccer offered. Next year, men's and women's basketball will be added to the slate. A dance team that will perform at basketball games also is being added.

Through an agreement with Goodland USD 352, the Mavericks will play their basketball games at Goodland High's Max Jones Fieldhouse. The school also is using the Larry Kearns Fitness Center in Goodland for practice space and other activities.

The addition of athletics has been an effort for the college to improve student life and challenge the status quo.

"I think that we might attract a different student than a community college," said Finley, vice president for student affairs and athletic director at NWKTC. "There has never been organized athletics at a technical school or college up until we started. I guess that's how we rebranded ourselves as Mavericks."

Enrollment has increased, especially in the female population at the school, as a result of the athletics addition. Students from around the world have contacted Finley, and ones from Brazil, Ukraine and Uzbekistan now are enrolled.

"It brings a diversity to this campus that we've never had before," Finley said. "To be able to learn about somebody else's country and their culture, that is something that has always been missing from this campus."

The school has made application to the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference, which consists of 19 community colleges in Kansas. If accepted, the school would become the 10th member of the western division and would compete against the likes of Colby, Barton County, Garden City and Dodge City community colleges.

"We're going to be challenged, we know that, but you've got to start someplace," Finley said.

Scheduling practices and games for the school has been a challenge, Finley said, due to the nature of the school.

"Our students in the technical programs, some start at 7 o'clock in the morning and go until 3:30 and it's the same class," Finley said. "We look like a community college model, but we are still so technical -- and we don't want to lose that identity -- we are so technical that our class schedules are totally different."

Finley said the community has been supportive of the sports so far, and many have expressed excitement about the addition of basketball. Earlier this month, Jase Herl was hired as the men's coach. He is a 2006 Goodland High graduate. A women's coach is expected to be hired soon, as well.

Finley said approximately 350 individuals applied for the men's and women's basketball openings.