Senior pitcher Hunter Wolfe is one of many seniors who saw their final season cut short. Photo courtesy of Dayton Athletics.
Sports Staff Writer
The COVID-19 pandemic has moved swiftly across the globe, affecting millions of people in the process. One particular consequence of the coronavirus has been the abrupt halt of sports.
Many under quarantine are looking for ways to fill the void that the absence of sports has left in their life. The timing of the emergency (although it seems that there is never a great time for a pandemic) is lousy to say the least. The NBA and NHL seasons were heading into the apex of their season, professional soccer tournaments were whittling down to a select few teams, the summer Olympics were in sight, NCAA sports like softball and baseball had seasons underway, and of course, the NCAA basketball tournament was on the brink of starting.
While it may seem frustrating and unfair to be a fan at this time, there are other people who are affected far more than the supporters stuck on their couches.
On March 12, college student-athletes were notified along with the rest of the world that the NCAA had canceled all sports for the remainder of their respective seasons. Dayton student-athletes were digesting the sudden information just like anyone else who had heard.
“I remember thinking I will never be able to be with [my team] again to compete and spend time together as friends,” senior softball player Mallory Kimmell said.
Kimmell, the president of Dayton’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, addressed all student-athletes at UD after the cancelation of spring sports with a sincere message.
Although heartbroken like all other college athletes, Kimmell acknowledged that the NCAA made the right decision by choosing to halt its spring seasons.
“I know that this was a small sacrifice my life could make to help people remain safe and healthy,” Kimmell said. “Even though this heartbreak feels huge to me, it’s small compared to what the whole world is facing right now.”
The NCAA has put an end to sports for the time being but hasn’t officially decided on the consequences of all players with careers cut short due to the coronavirus. While they have stated that there will be eligibility relief in some way, they have not decided the extent of it. The NCAA has, however, stated that Division 3 student-athletes will be granted an extra year of eligibility.
Although canceling spring sports was smart for the health and safety of the U.S., there are repercussions that the NCAA will have to deal with when ultimately deciding the future of student-athletes.
“As a senior, I thought I played my last game without knowing it,” Kimmell said. “I would not be able to play a home game my senior year. I would not get a senior day to share with my family.”
Other UD student-athletes have taken to social media to voice their feelings.
“I wish all of this was just a dream that I could wake up from … Wish i could play one more game with my brothers …,” senior men’s basketball team captain Trey Landers tweeted.
“To see it end like this makes my heart hurt, but I am so grateful to get the opportunity to play at UD,” graduate basketball player Ryan Mikesell said in a heartfelt tweet to Flyer Nation.
Several other Dayton basketball players tweeted about the season’s sudden ending.
The UD men’s basketball team had just finished an undefeated Atlantic 10 season play less than a week earlier and were supposed to head to New York City to compete in the A10 tournament. The team was also a projected one or two seed in the NCAA tournament.
Players like Trey Landers, Ryan Mikesell, and Obi Toppin have all played their final games donning a Dayton Flyers jersey due to the global pandemic.
Senior baseball player Hunter Wolfe tweeted about an emotional ending to his career, saying “One day you are preparing for your 5th series of the year, and the next day you are crying on the shoulders of your brothers. It shouldn’t end like this.” His teammate Mariano Ricciardi urged the NCAA to think about all seniors. “Just watched 17 of our seniors get this news at practice today with tears pouring down their faces. To have this be the way their careers end is a joke,” said the junior infielder in his tweet.
Seniors will be anxiously awaiting the decision of the NCAA until at least the end of March. The NCAA is reportedly voting on March 30 to determine whether seniors will be granted an extra year of eligibility, but that doesn’t mean that they will announce or even come to a concrete resolution.
“I am hoping that teams take these lessons and learn from their senior class,” said Kimmell in regards to all spring sports being cut short.
While seniors anticipate the NCAA’s decision on eligibility, they can take solace in reflecting on the time that they spent with their friends and teammates during their years competing for UD. Not many people can say that they have dedicated four or more years to a sport that they are so passionate about while competing at such a high level. They have also had an impact on their peers, knowingly or not, by being upperclassmen leaders to younger student-athletes following the same path.
Whether they play or not again, the class of 2020’s student-athletes will be leaving behind a legacy at the University of Dayton.