Last Chance U
Season 5 is coming to Laney College
The Raiders won’t be the only football team in Oakland to have cameras following them around for a documentary series this season. Laney College was just chosen to be the featured school for the new season of Netflix’s popular “Last Chance U” documentary series.
The series has examined the struggles and triumphs of junior college football teams the past four seasons as their players try to rejuvenate their collegiate careers. The Raiders, in fact, just cut defensive lineman Ronald Ollie from East Mississippi Community College, which was the featured school on the first two seasons of “Last Chance U.”
While a crew will be focusing on Laney and its players this fall, unlike “Hard Knocks”, the turnaround time for the shows on Netflix won’t be so quick. Viewers won’t see Laney’s season documented until next summer.
“Last Chance U” is currently running its Season 4 docuseries, which features Independence Community College in Kansas. “Last Chance U” has spent two seasons on each of its first two schools, so it’s likely the cameras will be following Laney’s squad for the next two seasons.
Laney was chosen by “Last Chance U” for its fifth season from among thousands of junior college football programs around the country for a couple of good reasons. For one, the Eagles are the defending mythical national champions after going 11-2 and winning the state championship last year. Secondly, their program is run by a gregarious and difference-making coach.
With all due respect to anyone associated with the Raiders, the godfather of football in Oakland is John Beam, the head football coach and athletic director at Laney. For nearly 40 years — 22 years at Skyline High, 16 at Laney — Beam has probably been the biggest football booster the city has known. In many cases, those efforts were probably unknown.
For years, Beam worked behind the scenes to make sure Oakland high school kids got their just due. He’d call newspaper reporters to push for players to be considered for postseason honors, figuring the added exposure may just help them earn a scholarship. In almost every case, those Oakland kids didn’t even play for him.
In all, Beam has coached more than 100 players who went on to play Division I football, and more than 20 who wound up playing in the NFL, including former Broncos and Raiders running back C.J. Anderson and ex-Steelers Pro Bowl tackle Marvel Smith.
As you might expect, his teams have won a lot. Beginning with his first season as head coach at Skyline in 1987, Beam’s teams went 160-33-3 and won 15 Oakland Athletic League titles, 11 section titles and had four unbeaten seasons. The Titans went through the entire decade of the 90’s without losing a league game.
However, Beam won’t ever point to those numbers to illustrate success, which just might be a constant theme when his team is on “Last Chance U.” He’s mostly proud that more than 90 percent of the players at Laney wind up graduating or transferring to Division I schools.
Beam is also preoccupied with creating leaders among his players, which he notes can be more of a challenge than just winning games.
“Building leadership in today’s community is really hard,” he once said in an interview. “A lot of young people don’t want to be leaders. They don’t want to put themselves out in front. They want to hide within their peer group. No one wants to stand out and actually tell people that they are doing the wrong thing.
“Positive peer pressure works,” he added, “Showing up on time, finishing your work when the coach is not looking. How do we make that happen? Or, more importantly, letting the coach know if someone didn’t go to class or was late to class. This is not snitching, you are actually helping them to help themselves.”
Netflix’s popular sports-doc series, Last Chance U, has given us the best (and worst) of junior college football: legendary meltdowns from coaches Buddy Stephens and Jason Brown, to unforgettable redemption stories from the likes of Dakota Allen and John Franklin III.
It looks like we’ll be getting more next summer—but not with Brown’s Independence Pirates. Netflix will ship out of the Midwest and head to Oakland, California, where they’ll feature Coach John Beam and the Laney College Eagles. Netflix confirmed the season renewal to Esquire via phone late Friday afternoon.
“We feel fortunate to be picked up for a fifth season and feel equally lucky to be able to tell the story of the California JUCO system through the stories found at Laney College and in the city of Oakland, California,” said Last Chance Udirector Greg Whiteley in an email. “Coach Beam has had a Hall of Fame career, and as he begins his 40th year coaching we’re thrilled at the chance we’ll get to tell the stories found on the team, the school, and within the city of Oakland itself."
After what happened to Independence in Season Four, it looks like we’ll be back to following a powerhouse program, like East Mississippi Community College in Seasons One and Two. Under Beam’s leadership, Laney has produced over 20 NFL players—not to mention the Eagles are coming off a championship season, as the 2018 CCCAA winners.
And thankfully, it looks like Coach Beam is the supportive type—a little more Lombardi than what we’ve seen in past seasons. The Mercury News, a daily newspaper based in San Jose, spoke with Beam, who recounted his first address in front of Netflix’s cameras to his 2019-2020 squad.
“I told them we’re not Last Chance U… We’re your first chance. We’re your Best Chance U,” he said. “I said you’re not [rejects]. All those kids from the other shows either left school, got kicked out from a four-year school or something. Well, that’s not us. You’re the kids who came here for a reason. To better your grades or better you football outlook. We’re your best chance.”
A few weeks back, we shared an article laying out five suggestions for Netflix to feature on their Season 5 of the hit show Last Chance U.
The overwhelming choice among those, based on reactions from social media was Snow College (UT), which had the potential to included some really interesting storylines. Also included on that list were two California schools where things could get especially interesting. Here’s an excerpt from our previous 5 programs Last Chance U should consider article to lay out why:
“Unlike the NJCAA, the CCCAA does not give scholarships to kids and California JC teams only play other California JC teams, which means there is always controversy over the Junior College National Title because the best team in California aren’t in the mix for it. The CCCAA has their own poll, rankings, and bowl games as their own governing body.”
While the schools we said should get a shot don’t seem to be the choice of the show’s producers, the series does seem to be headed west.
According to a report shared today by @LastChanceUAlum, the show is heading to Laney College, located in Oakland, CA for Season 5. Sources out west tell FootballScoop that, while nothing is official, they’ve been hearing the same rumor.
The Laney College football program is led by coach Hall of Fame coach John Beam, who enters his 40th year in the coaching profession this fall. Last year, he was voted the CCCAA Football Coach of the Year, and his squad closed last year with an 11-2 record and holding the honor of the “2018 CCCAA National Champions”.
No official word from Netflix yet, but if this plays out to be true, the storylines will be very different in season five with coach Bream’s program and might prove to be a refreshing change of venue for the show among coaches.
Netflix original documentary series "Last Chance U" has grown in popularity with each passing season. Of course, the show zeroes in on college athletes that have struggled to keep themselves out of trouble, and are thereby forced to take the junior collegiate track in hopes of rejuvenating their fledgling careers.
East Mississippi Community College and Independence Community College in Kansas have been the two featured schools during the program's first four seasons. However, a new institution will be the topic of discussion for the upcoming fifth season: Laney College in Oakland, California.
What is Laney College?
Founded in 1953, Laney College is a public community college with an enrollment of over 16,000 students. Among their alumni is Lions running back CJ Anderson, who eventually trasnferred to Cal before turning pro. This past campaign, the Laney Eagles ranked as the No.1 junior college football program nationally.
The rankings even showed that the college outperformed a plethora of Division I teams in the NCAA, including New Mexico State, Columbia, Georgia State, and Villanova. For the year, the Eagles finished 11-2 and took home the California Community College Athletic Association State Football Championship.
Where is Laney College Located?
Laney is situated just east of downtown Oakland, and is a short walk from Lake Merritt. They play their games at Laney College Football Stadium.