Coach Ernst and Oiler Basketball thankful and ready for another season
By Collin Frazier
With COVID-19 having a large effect on colleges nationwide around March, many sports had to cancel the remaining half of their season. One of these sports included basketball. Although the season did not end the way he and the team wanted it to, University of Findlay Head Men’s Basketball Coach Charlie Ernst said this served as motivation for this season
“It was a real blow when we lost in the Conference Tournament. It’s interesting because a week later, the teams were sent home from the NCAA Regional, then of course, that never got played,” Ernst said. “If there’s a year where you don’t make it to the NCAA Tournament, last year was the year. I’d like to think that we can use that as motivation for this year. I think our guys were highly motivated–I think I speak on behalf of all college basketball coaches when I think that.”
Ernst is grateful to UF administration for allowing the team to have a season.
“I’m pretty pleased with where we’re [the team] at right now, given everything that’s been going on. I give our leadership on campus a lot of credit,” Ernst commented. “They’ve tried to be fair, safe, and aggressive all at the same time. By aggressive, I just mean if our guys are doing what is asked of them in terms of being safe, wearing their masks, social distancing, taking all the [necessary] steps, and there’s no positive [tests], rather than holding them back, they’ve slowly given us a little bit more rope each week… I think a lot of college administrators, not only athletes, but presidents, are trying to find hope for athletics in college. I think they realize it’s important for college campuses, whether you’re a student or not, to feel like college has a chance to feel like college.”
Although Findlay and the rest of G-MAC will start on-time for the season, the same cannot be said for every local conference.
“[We are] very fortunate… I think in basketball, there are 26 DII conferences nationwide. I think 10 to 12 of them have announced they’re not starting basketball until after Jan. 1,” Ernst commented. “I think the other 16 are either starting on-time, which would be mid-November to early December. Even though the GLIAC, our ‘sister conference’, had voted to move Winter Sports, specifically our sport, to a start date of Jan. 1, it would have been very easy for our leadership to just tag along with that decision, but we didn’t. I feel very fortunate that our athletic director, and our president, and the same at the other institutions in our conference, decided to take a little bit more of an aggressive approach.”
With COVID-19 not going anywhere anytime soon, one may wonder if the G-MAC will have a bubble similar to what the NBA had when its season resumed on July 30t Ernst explained that while that option is in place, it is certainly not the first option.
“We’ve come up with a bubble model, and the bubble model is a last resort model,” Ernst explained. “Back when we developed that model– and by we, to be fair, it was a couple of the basketball coaches in our conference that used our off-time this summer, especially late summer, to come up with this idea for the month of December, [and] just for the month of December because we’re not in school… As of today, the bubble is not being considered for the schedule they’re working on. It would only be a last resort if there’s outbreaks and we as a conference decide it’s the only way to have a season.”
UF Athletic Director Brandi Laurita says they have not made a public announcement yet on plans for fans.
With this new, hopefully somewhat normal season, comes new responsibilities for the team. Ernst says he has faith in how the players, all being in different years, will develop throughout the season.
“We have a couple of guys that were redshirted last year, so we’ll have some new faces that will be playing important minutes for us, but they were [already] in our program,” Ernst stated. “I think we have a nice mix of players and classes. I think that is important because you, as a head coach, have a responsibility to, especially this season, to develop players and develop a system in which, even though you graduate guys, you got plenty of guys that are moving up and assuming a larger role the following year.”
Along with having a nice mix of classes, Ernst is also pleased with the work the team put in during the offseason and quarantine
“I’m pretty pleased with the development of our guys this offseason,” Ernst proclaimed. “It [this offseason] was concerning because we weren’t around our guys as much this offseason, so you’re taking their word for it that they’re working out, they’re getting stronger, they’re getting better. But, you’re simply taking their word for it. We had some guys that I’m really proud of that it was more than talk; they clearly put a lot of time into their game during the quarantine, so they deserve a lot of credit. It makes me really excited about what their potential could be this season in a bigger role”
In order to protect the players from contracting COVID-19, some measures the team is taking this season is spreading out water bottles when taking breaks, wiping down basketballs, and taking many, many COVID-19 tests. Ernst said he would not be surprised if each member had at least 30 tests taken on them by the end of the season.
The Oiler’s begin their 2020-2021 campaign Dec. 3 against Trevecca Nazarene at 8:30 p.m. in Niekamp Arena.