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 Chipola Sports Dynasty


MARIANNA - Just before Chipola College baseball coach Jeff Johnson left home for the recent state juco tournament, his wife reminded him that the onus was on his team to make it a clean sweep. The Indians responded with an undefeated performance to give Chipola an unprecedented fourth state championship in one year by a Panhandle Conference team.

Johnson downplayed his first state title in 11 seasons, instead crediting support from Chipola's other coaches, administration and his players.

"If you don't have all of the three, you're not going to win," he said. "We have a great group of people here and they have expectations. If you don't have people who want to win, most of the times you don't win."

Athletic Director Dale O'Daniel said there might not be a better way to describe Chipola's accomplishments than to call it a dynasty. Four championships in one season has indeed turned little Marianna into a title town.

On Saturday night, the town got something else to cheer for when its softball team captured the national title. Such a feat has been achieved at Chipola just once, and that was back in the 1960s when the school had a golf program that won the school's first championship.

Chipola College is Marianna's sports franchise. The town is especially passionate in its support of both basketball programs, always showing up in large numbers to see their teams that carry a domineering swagger on its homecourt.

"That has trickled down to all the other athletes and other programs," said Greg Heiar, men's basketball coach. "That's what we instill from day one: that refuse-to-lose mentality. You've got to be in it for one reason and that's to refuse to lose. That equals swagger. It's confidence, and that's what it's all about."

During the past five years, the school has invested more than $1 million to renovate its baseball stadium, softball field and the basketball arena. The dividends are obvious.

In addition to baseball, Chipola won state titles to represent the conference at the national championship in men's and women's basketball and softball.

"You can't buy that, you can't sell that, but you can market that," O'Daniel said, pointing to other success stories out of Chipola.

Former Indians are making their mark in the major league this season. Russell Martin is a catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Jose Bautista is playing third base for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Adam Loewen pitches for the Baltimore Orioles.

Several other former Chipola players have gone on to excel in all four sports at either the college or pro levels. Just this past basketball season, Mario Boggan helped Oklahoma State to the postseason, while Stefhon Hannah played at Missouri and Michael Taylor at Iowa State.

Chipola's success in basketball clearly has been the benchmark. For the past three seasons, the women's team has advanced to the national championship tournament. Coach David Lane's team has gotten there without winning a conference title, but this year is sharing in Chipola's greatest achievement.

"You could talk about dynasty because we have that tradition at Chipola," he said. "It's sort of the lightning-in-the-bottle type of deal where for one year everything kind of came together. There are so many things that could happen to prevent you from getting to the national championship; you've got to be lucky. You've to have the breaks. For that to happen for four programs it's pretty rare."

Fans like Aaron Peterson, who seldom misses a road game, have been savoring the quadruple championships.

"I love these teams," he said. "I love this college. They're a close-knit family and (fans) support everything.

"Nobody loves to lose. We don't expect anything but a win."


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