Two of the four candidates backed by those who want to preserve junior college football in Maricopa County appear as though they will be defeated in their bids to be elected to the Maricopa County Community College District governing board.
Citing financial constraints, Maricopa Community Colleges announced in February that it will eliminate its football programs at Phoenix College, Scottsdale Community College, Mesa Community College and Glendale Community College following the 2018 season. That move will affect about 400 student-athletes.
A group led by former Glendale Community College football coach Joe Kersting backed four candidates who vowed to keep those football programs afloat. But two of the candidates they are supporting -- District 4 candidate Stan Arterberry and At-Large candidate Roc Arnett -- appear as if they will go down in defeat.
With nearly 500,000 votes cast for the At-Large board seat as of 10:30 p.m. Arizona time, Arnett trailed Kathleen Ann Winn by nearly 120,000 votes. Arterberry trailed sitting board member Jean McCrath by over 30,000 votes with about 115,000 votes cast in District 4.
The other two candidates supported by the pro-football group appear as if they will win. Marie Sullivan had a sizable lead over a pair of challengers in District 3, and Tom Nerini was running unopposed in District 5.
Since there is a total of seven board members, victory for all four pro-football candidates could have been enough for MCCCD to reverse course and preserve football in the county.
"Insurance companies we rely on are hedging with regard to future coverage for CTE or similar disabilities. High schools, colleges and even the NFL are exposing themselves to catastrophic financial risk," MCCCD board member Dana Saar, who reluctantly agreed to eliminate football, told ABC15 in August. "Our pipeline of talent is and will continue to dry up. Football, as we've known and loved, will not be the same sport in the years ahead."
Former Maricopa Community College football players, including former Cardinals and Mesa Community College offensive lineman Deuce Lutui, have advocated for the continuation of football in the county.
"I needed it. I needed that community college because that was the next step for me out of high school. I wasn't quite there, but the junior-college level provided me that extra year that I needed. If you're behind on grades if you just need that extra fill-in year, junior college provides that for these kids. Lutui told ABC15 in February.
Fellow MCC alum Damarious Randall, who went on to play for ASU and was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, also opposed MCCCD's decision to eliminate football.
"If it wasn't for that, Maricopa County, I wouldn't be where I am today," Randall said in September. "I'm just thankful for the opportunity and I would hate for other guys to not be given that opportunity."