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March Madness for Tribal Colleges

PABLO, Mont. — Sunday presented a sweet feeling of accomplishment for Andrae Domebo and Dani Augare.


Domebo provided the necessary inside presence to help lift the Salish Kootenai College men’s basketball team to the championship of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium national tournament and Augare led the Lady Bison to the women’s title.


Domebo celebrated with his teammates at midcourt following their 100-92 victory over Blackfeet Community College of Browning, Mont. He posted a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds for the Bison, one of his best games since joining the team in January. He is a student at Salish Kootenai College, taking his courses via satellite from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., but made the trip here to the Flathead Indian Reservation for the tournament.


“It feels good. It feels really good,” Domebo said his team’s win. “This is a brand-new gym here at SKC and we wanted to come out and represent it strong. We all worked hard throughout the season and we all deserved this.”


The men’s championship game marked the end of a four-day, action-filled blend of March Madness in Pablo with more than 50 games played between the 10 men’s teams and eight women’s teams.


“It was a long road, but it sure was fun,” Augare said after scoring 37 points to lead the Salish Kootenai women to a 92-69 romp of Turtle Mountain Community College of Belcourt, N.D., in the championship game.


Augare, from Browning, Mont., had to leave the team last season because of personal reasons, making this year her first AIHEC tournament.


“We had some tough games throughout the year and got beat by some good junior colleges,” Augare said, referring to her team’s sub-par 7-14 record entering the tournament. “It only made us tougher, though. It’s been an exciting weekend.”


The tribal basketball tournament is held annually, inviting all 36 tribal colleges from around the nation. Lady Bison coach Juan Perez called it the “tribal college version of the NCAA national tournament.” Only a handful of schools have the resources to put together a team. The Institute of American Indian Arts is an example of a team’s eagerness to represent its school as the six IAIA men pulled together just for the tournament so they could showcase their school, located in Santa Fe, N.M.


“A lot of colleges do that,” Perez said. “As the years have gone on, the teams have all gotten pretty competitive.”


New Facility Draws Tournament

It was the first time the AIHEC tournament was hosted in the area since Polson held it in 1996, but it won’t be the last at the 15-month-old $5.5 million Joe McDonald Health and Fitness Center on the Salish Kootenai College campus.


Joe McDonald, whom the new 2,300 seat gym is named after, is the longtime president of the college who helped establish the school more than 30 years ago.


As the Bison teams converged at center court Sunday, earning hoots and hollers from family and friends while sporting their new AIHEC National Championship jackets, McDonald simply stood back and smiled.


“I know both teams really wanted it really bad, so it turned out very well,” he said of the champions. “It was really great that we were able to do it.”


McDonald led the charge several years ago to make a sports facility on the Salish Kootenai campus a reality. Bison teams had to practice wherever they could prior to its completion in December 2007.


“If he wouldn’t have fought the way he did, we wouldn’t have got this,” Bison men’s coach Zach Camel said. “Shoot, there’s hardly any gyms like this in Montana. It’s a blessing. Without Joe’s dreams for this school, nothing like this would have happened.”


The gym is essentially a step toward establishing basketball teams worthy of joining a conference, such as Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kan., did when it became an NAIA-affiliated school or, more recently, Little Big Horn College in 2007. The Rams joined the junior college ranks in basketball.


McDonald said making the transition to the junior college level in athletics might be the next step. His team backed up the statement, pulling out a 116-99 victory over Little Big Horn on Jan. 11.


“If we want to improve the program and make it even better, we will want to join a conference such as the Frontier Conference,” McDonald said. “We’re kind of in between right now. We’re also kind of isolated schedule-wise too, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens.”


Charles Pulliam, Alaskan Aleut, is a senior studying journalism at the University of Montana in Missoula. Pulliam will be a reporting intern this summer at the Denver bureau of The Associated Press.

Grants & Gifts

California State University, Fresno, has received a $100,000 gift from DPS Telecom to support faculty and students in the Lyles College of Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The funds will help students gain practical experience by solving real-world electrical and computer engineering problems and get faculty involved with industry on relevant projects.


The City College of New York has been awarded a five-year $15 million grant by the National Institutes of Health to develop a partnership in cancer research, education and outreach.

The City College of San Francisco has received a $1.2 million grant from the Department of Education to establish a science, technology, engineering and mathematics program for Asian Pacific Islanders. While the grant specifically targets this group, all underrepresented minority groups are eligible to participate in the program.

The Community College of Baltimore County has received a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor for CCBC’s project titled “Expanding Healthcare Opportunities in a Recession Economy.” The grant will run through December 2011.

Grinell College (Iowa) has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to establish a program that encourages students, especially underrepresented minorities, to pursue college teaching careers.

Pine Technical College (Minn.) has been awarded a $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to teach advanced manufacturing technology skills to high-school students and out-of-work or underemployed adults.


San Francisco State University has received $1.9 million to establish the Robert and Joyce Corrigan SF Promise Endowed Scholarship Fund. The funds will help put higher education in reach for all San Francisco public school students.


South Central College (Minn.) has received a $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to support a new two-year mechatronics degree program that begins this fall.


Virginia State University has received a $325,000 grant from Altria Group, Inc. to help fund student support services and financial aid in VSU’s School of Engineering, Science and Technology.

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