By: Collin Frazier
With Oiler Nation coming back to school, albeit with some new guidelines, one thing that students were looking forward to was being able to cheer on their fellow students in fall athletics. Due to COVID-19, all fall contact sports, including soccer and volleyball, will be postponed to the spring of 2021. University of Findlay Athletic Director Brandi Laurita said that this was the safest route after many discussions with other schools in the G-MAC.
“The Great Midwest Athletic Administrators and Presidents discussed many options, with the overarching goal to keep student-athletes healthy and safe while allowing them to engage in the most complete athletic experience,” Laurita said. “With extensive NCAA mandates, the decision reached [that postponing sports] was ultimately the only option for UF and all of the G-MAC schools.”
This caused much disappointment, but not much surprise, throughout UF athletics.
Men’s Soccer Head Coach Andy Smyth says he tried to prepare his team for just about anything.
“We’ve been in constant contact with our team through the summer and the consistent message we’ve told them is that our mindset is to come in for pre-season, play a regular schedule, challenge at the top of the conference, and make the playoffs,” Smyth stated. “At the same time we’ve told them to be flexible and if we have to make adjustments at any time, we will. So, it was disappointing but definitely not a surprise when the G-MAC postponed the season. With the two adjacent DII conferences canceling their fall seasons, it was just a question of when we made the same decision.”
Volleyball Head Coach Wick Colchagoff says his heart goes out to the players.
“My reaction was one of mostly sadness. I am sad for the athletes that have worked hard for the last 10 years to have their senior year distorted,” Colchagoff commented. “Whatever you think about the pandemic, this is going to be a moment in history when many lives are adversely [affected] either by the virus or by our reaction to the pandemic.”
For those senior athletes who may be worried that they cannot finish their collegiate careers, Laurita said not to worry.
“With the postponement of fall sports schedules for contact sports, Seniors will have an option to play a season in the spring, and dependent on if less than 50% of allowable contests are played will be granted a blanket waiver to compete if they choose in the fall of 2021,” Laurita said.
As well, there are some concerns about recruitment for future Oilers. Smyth and Colchagoff both say there will be incoming Oilers in the future, although there will be some complications with the Class of 2022.
“We wrapped up our scholarship commitments for 2021 by March, so we [are] almost done with next year’s recruits,” Colchagoff said. “Recruiting for us has not been affected to a large extent. The class of 2022 is starting to be affected by the lack of opportunity to evaluate their abilities.”
“It won’t affect our recruiting,” said Smyth. “We have had more recruits on campus than we’ve ever had by this time of year. The only negative is we can’t invite recruits to watch us play in the fall, but every other school is in the same boat.”
Of course, COVID-19 does not just affect the university’s athletics with postponements. The virus affects Findlay athletes in their daily lives.
“With the ever-changing mandates from state and local government and the NCAA, all aspects of athletics has been changed, from drastic changes like decreases in the number of student-athletes who can practice together and daily health screenings to changes in flow through athletic spaces with specific entrances and exits,” said Laurita. “We anticipate we will see more changes as we bring the full athletic department back to campus.”
The plan that athletics had in place was one that both Colchagoff and Laurita thought would work.
“The University had a very solid plan to bring student-athletes back to campus, practice, and compete,” stated Colchagoff. “I feel confident that the vast majority of student-athletes would have done very well under this plan.”
“The Athletic Department along with the entire campus community have worked very hard to prepare for restarting campus life,” Laurita said. “I am confident in our protocols and do believe that we can operate in a way that will mitigate risk and provide an athletic experience that is valuable and will prepare our student-athletes for their competitive seasons, even if the seasons are delayed.”
Even with this postponement, that just gives more time for the athletes to be in their best condition for the sport. Smyth is confident their plans will work.
“Our hope is that we can have a non-traditional season in the fall; we want our players to be able to practice lift, condition, and develop,” Smyth said. “I’m a glass-half-full type of person, so the way I look at [it] is that instead of having three weeks of pre-season before our first game in the fall, we now have around 5 months to prepare for the spring season.”
“We are strong, we are resilient, we are Oilers, and because of this we will come out of this unprecedented time better, stronger and ready for the next challenge,” Laurita commented. “Athletics may look different, but our values and mission have not changed and we are confident that we will be able to provide experiences for our student-athletes that will allow them to grow socially, emotionally, physically, and mentally in a new and innovative way.”