May 8, 2010 11:46:00 PM
If Junior Noel was stunned to learn the East Mississippi Community College soccer programs he coached were going to be suspended, imagine the surprise of the freshmen on the teams when they heard the news.
Former Starkville High School forward Eduardo Fumo, who was a freshman on the EMCC men''s soccer team in the fall, said he first learned of the school''s decision to suspend the men''s and women''s soccer programs in a phone call from Brian Bennett, his former coach at Starkville High.
"I asked him if he was serious," Fumo said. "He told me to go talk to my coach (Junior Noel) and ask him about it. I went to talk to coach Noel and he said it was true. I was so surprised."
Fumo said he didn''t know the school was considering suspended the programs for a year. EMCC Athletic Director Mickey Stokes said Friday the school will re-evaluate its soccer programs later this year in hopes of bringing the programs back for the 2011 seasons.
That decision will be too late for Fumo, who has one year of eligibility remaining. The high-scoring forward will play his sophomore season at Itawamba Community College. He said he spoke to ICC coach Mike Sullivan shortly after he learned of EMCC''s decision and accepted Sullivan''s scholarship offer.
"Coach Sullivan talked to (coach Noel) and he said all of the players would be released from their scholarships (at EMCC) and that there would be no problem going there," Fumo said. "I told him I would like that."
Fumo said a conversation he had earlier this week with Leonardo Reyes, a sophomore on the EMCC men''s soccer team, reflected the surprise everyone associated with the programs felt. He said Reyes, who is from Trinidad and Tobago, told him Noel was recruiting another player from Trinidad and Tobago and that he likely would join the program.
All of those plans changed Monday, though, after the EMCC Board of Trustees voted to accept the recommendation of an advisory committee and suspend the soccer programs.
Noel said most of players he had talked to this week said they were not going to play soccer in the fall. He said Jamal Richards, a freshman defender from Trinidad, has an offer to play soccer from Louisiana State at Shreveport. He also said several other junior college coaches in Mississippi had called him to express interest in other players.
Fumo said he enjoyed his time at EMCC, but he admitted the location of EMCC''s main campus in Scooba, which is in Kemper County and is about an hour from Columbus and Starkville and about 45 minutes from Meridian, and made it difficult to recruit top players to the school. He said it would be "awesome" if the school decided to move its soccer programs to Mayhew, which is about 20 minutes from Columbus and Starkville. He said Mayhew would be appealing because it would put student-athletes closer to Mississippi State and it would give them more things to do when they weren''t studying, playing or practicing their sport.
It doesn''t appear the school will go in that direction, so Fumo said something else needs to be done.
"The only way Scooba is going to be good is if they get good players to come there, and they''re not going to come there because there is nothing to do," Fumo said. "They''re going to be able to have an OK team (and that is the way it will stay) unless they make a drastic change."
Fumo said the construction of a $4.7 million multi-sports facility that will accommodate football and soccer is a "small piece" of what is needed to help build the soccer programs. He said it doesn''t where he plays soccer because all he needs is a ball and some grass, but he understands that''s not the case with everyone.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.