Play Ball! As SBCC Athletics Returns, There’s a New Man in Charge
A recent Friday afternoon stroll down Cabrillo Boulevard brought about a sight that hasn’t been seen in more than 18 months — the Santa Barbara City College football team getting in an afternoon practice at the recently refurbished La Playa Stadium.
With SBCC Athletics shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic since the spring of 2020, seeing the Vaquero red is a welcome change for a campus that continues to face turmoil — with the school searching for yet another president, while its athletic director also resigned after five years at the school in June.
So, the “interim” tag is quite popular nowadays, including for Jerry Hannula, who was named the interim athletic director in late August, with a start date slated for September 13.
Hannula isn’t a stranger to community college athletics, spending 29 years at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, including 15 as an assistant athletic director before retiring in 2020.
But retirement kept him from the camaraderie that can be found within an athletic department, particularly with staff and coaches — so he jumped at the opportunity, despite the challenges ahead in dealing with health protocols from the school, city, state, CDC, as well as a plethora of others.
“Things have definitely changed, it looks a lot tougher, things are changing on a daily basis,” Hannula told the Santa Barbara Sentinel.
“But I’m up for the challenge.”
Hannula, who has spent his retirement volunteering at foodbanks and a women’s shelter, offered up some insight as to what Vaquero fans can expect from him in a Q&A session with the Sentinel:
Q. You left for a couple of years, why jump back into the fray?
A. I thought to myself, “You know what, I have the knowledge. And I can help.” I think I can be a value to the community college system, when there’s a lot of people retiring and stepping out and getting away from it. People that are getting sick, or people that are even dying. I just thought that maybe with my experience, I could bring some direction back into the system. That kind of pulled me out of retirement.
Santa Barbara has a rich tradition of athletic excellence, but that hasn’t always translated to high school athletes staying home and going to SBCC. How will you address that?
The times are a little different than they were two or three years ago. There’s a lot of students out there that don’t want to go to a university or go away somewhere if they’re going to sit in a dorm or sit in an apartment, and take all their classes online. That doesn’t really make much sense. We have an opening, and we can outreach by reminding locals that, “Hey, you can come up here.” Yes, there are still a lot of online classes, but there are some that are in person; we’re starting to get back to the college experience. And, if you’re a student athlete, you get a chance to get your feet wet again and start to compete.
Alright, you haven’t even started yet, but what are your thoughts on facility improvements, particularly Pershing Park and the Sports Pavilion?
We have so many changes in administration: I’m labeled the interim athletic director, I report to an interim vice president, there’s the interim president. These are the decision makers, and what we must do is get stability and get people that are willing to make decisions before we start to pull the trigger on those upgrades. It also gets more complicated because the city is involved. It’s a little more difficult than if it was just college property right. So, that’s a whole different subgroup that we have to deal with.
SBCC is such a key part of our community; tell us what your impressions are and what prior experience you might have here.
Well, I have some roots in the community: back in the mid ‘80s I was involved in St. Raphael’s Parish in Goleta. I spent probably four or five years traveling into the area. My older brother and I used to live there, and my sister still lives in the Santa Barbara area. So, it’s not something that’s totally new to me. I did work for an old station there called KDLS when they were big band. I did some traffic reports before they took out the stoplights down at lower State (Street). So, I was your traffic advisor on the radio.
It’s just a beautiful beach town — there’s so many people that want to be here. When you say, “Hey, I’m working at Santa Barbara City College,” or, you know you’re coming into town to play, people get excited about it. The facilities have a great view right there by the beach. It’s just one in a million to host athletic events with that kind of backdrop.