By ANGEL CANEZ
Pima Community College has come to a decision and the search for a new acting athletic director is over. Soon to be former football coach Jim Monaco was awarded the job on Oct. 29.
“Jim was appointed and will be in this role … through the balance of the academic year,” Pima Chancellor Lee Lambert said during the Oct. 30 press conference at the West Campus.
Monaco beat out four other candidates — Pima soccer coach David Cosgrove; women’s basketball coach Todd Holthaus; Akira Kondo, Pima’s athletic trainer; and David Donderwicz, fiscal advanced analysis — financial aid at Pima’s District Office.
Monaco is replacing Edgar Soto, who was Pima’s athletic director since 2016.
“It doesn’t bother me to say this, but Jim (Monaco) is going to do a better job than I’ve done,” Soto said. “I feel I brought the program to a certain level, but with his skills and things he’s capable of he’s going to take the athletics program to another level.”
Soto will take a new job as Pima’s acting vice president at Desert Vista Campus and director of student affairs.
Monaco has a passion for Pima and personal experience as an athletic director at the high school level.
“When I recruit kids or talk to people, I never use the word ‘stepping stone,’ ” Monaco said. “Pima is not a stepping stone, it is a launching pad. You can go anywhere you want from this place.”
Monaco’s three kids all have graduated from Pima, so he has a strong connection to the school as an employee and a parent.
In the past, Monaco spent almost 20 years as a police officer, was a vice principal at Desert View High School for one year and spent five years as athletic director.
“It’s basically the same things with bigger numbers,” Monaco said when asked how his K-12 athletic director skills would translate to the collegiate level.
Monaco has over 10 years experience at Pima having started in 2000. He worked with Pima Athletics starting in 2011 before taking over the reins at head coach of football in 2013.
Monaco has a position of bringing all of Pima athletics together to save programs, as football has already been cut.
“The short-term goal is to make sure our coaches are not only a cohesive group, but that we are taking care of the athletics we have now … if we don’t become cohesive, we’re going to fall apart,” Monaco said.
Lambert has said Pima intends to cut other sports programs as the school deals with its budget.
“We plan on closing out some programs,” Lambert said. “We of course know about football, but we also are looking at a couple other programs. I don’t really want to say which ones right now, because it still is dependent on a few other things looking at our budget.”
Funding issues are related to enrollment because Pima gets a majority of its money based on student fees.
“We have to make sure that no other kids are affected by cuts so we have to get together and fix this,” Monaco said.
Sports are taking a hit at other schools besides Pima. The ACCAC Western States Football League is going from 12 to three teams after this year. Pima is looking to create scholarship opportunities for local athletes as the school looks at ways to increase enrollment.
Monaco explained his first priority as athletic director.
“To find some avenues that we can cut down on the budget — save money on travel or anything else by getting together. Maybe we can do it by getting sponsorship like I have for football.”
Monaco feels like branding Pima will go a long way to bring in more students is as they see how Pima is a nationally ranked college. He noted that Pima is losing Tucson athletics to other community colleges across the state. He said he believes that all sports are equal regardless of their records.
Monaco feels like Pima has a great opportunity to grow their athletics and enrollment with prep classes so students can be athletes without being forced to take classes they don’t want. That way, if students are having trouble in their classes, they can get help and at least leave with a certificate of education.
Monaco wants to bring sports back to the college. Currently, Pima teams practice and play in facilities across town.
“Why are we paying Pima County to play games, but why not dress our place and show people how amazing in campus is?” he asked. “By spending money on our own place, it will increase enrollment. We’ll have kids on our campus seeing how great this place is.”