Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: From left, EAC Dean of Student Services Kenny Smith, EAC President Todd Haynie, and EAC Director of Athletics Jim Bagnall display the Gila Monsters’ soccer ball colors at the press conference. EAC is expected to field full men’s and women’s teams starting in the fall of 2023.
By Kris McBride/EAC
Thatcher – On Tuesday, Eastern Arizona College (EAC) announced the addition of men’s and women’s soccer to its award-winning athletics program. This announcement took place at the college’s annual employee convocation.
More than 200 employees stood to cheer as EAC President Todd Haynie delivered a message from EAC’s beloved mascot, Gila Hank. The personally delivered message detailed that beginning in fall 2023, the newly announced soccer program will include both men’s and women’s teams that will compete in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference.
“This is an exciting opportunity for EAC and all its students,” said Haynie. “It will create a great atmosphere for the fall season and enhance student engagement throughout our campuses.”
Over the next two years, several steps will be taken to build EAC’s soccer program. The college will begin with an assessment of its current facilities, including the development of a practice field and necessary adjustments to John Mickelson Field.
“We have the great advantage of having a lighted field,” stated EAC Athletic Director Jim Bagnall. “This will allow us to offer evening games, which will be attractive to our local community.”
The college will begin hiring coaching staff for both teams and recruiting student-athletes as early as next year. It is anticipated that there will be 24 scholarships for each team.
“We feel comfortable with our timeline and we’re going to do it right,” said EAC Dean of Student Services Kenny Smith. “This is the right sport at the right time for EAC.”
EAC prides itself in offering a full college experience with residence halls and dining, campus activities and events, music and theatrical performances, and award-winning athletic competitions.
“Soccer is an investment in our college and in our students,” Haynie said. “Along with all our athletic programs, our fine arts programs, and other campus activities, this will help ensure the long-term success of EAC.”
Since football ended with the collapse of the Western States Football League, there has been a void in fall athletic activities on EAC’s Thatcher Campus. For the first time in approximately 80 years, the only fall sport EAC has offered has been volleyball.
Soccer will present a full venue of athletic events on EAC’s Thatcher Campus during the fall semester. In addition to attending games, the community will benefit from soccer-related activities.
EAC encourages any interested students or coaches to watch for more EAC announcements on the soccer timeline.