Even in the silence on UD’s campus, incoming SAAC president said SAAC is adjusting accordingly. Cover photo from Dayton Athletics
Sports Editor Emeritus
On March 11, a day that feels like it was about three years ago, Dayton students were notified that in-person classes were cancelled and housing was closing. The next day, as many students were packing their bags – and recovering from “Coronafest” – Dayton athletes got more bad news: all spring sports had been cancelled for the season.
For Flyer seniors, this news essentially ended their athletic careers.
“We got word in the middle of our practice and we were all so shocked, it really took a while for it to sink in that the season was over,” Dayton baseball senior Tyler Jones said. “There were a lot of tears, hugs and confusion. No one was sure what this meant for seniors or eligibility or a million other questions that we had. I just kept thinking that ‘it can’t end like this.’ After playing this game my whole life, it couldn’t end like this, and I wasn’t prepared to say goodbye to my teammates, coaches, or the University of Dayton.”
Many athletes were immediately lobbying for the NCAA to grant extra eligibility to the players who had their seasons cut short.
Sophomore Mariano Ricciardi tweeted, “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. I understand the precautions w/ the virus but they deserve their last year back. Make this right @NCAA.”
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. I understand the precautions w/ the virus but they deserve their last year back. Make this right @NCAA https://t.co/P5OJ9EU6uP
— Mariano Ricciardi (@anno9113) March 12, 2020
On March 30, athletes received the news they had been waiting for. The NCAA had extended eligibility for student-athletes affected by the cancellations.
“I was glad the NCAA was giving everyone the opportunity to play out the season again,” Jones said. “I think it was the right and fair thing to do, but I also recognize it placed a strain on some schools and programs.”
Despite some overall drawbacks, the opportunity was too good for Jones to pass up.
“Every athlete’s decision is going to be a little bit different as they weigh various factors and how another year at UD would impact them and their families,” Jones said. “I knew from the beginning that I wanted to come back for another year of UD and Flyer baseball, it was just a matter of finding the correct graduate program for me and figuring out the financial piece.”
On top of pitching for the baseball team and academics, Jones is using his fifth year at UD to help his fellow student athletes as the president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee.
“SAAC President was always something I had been interested in since joining SAAC sophomore year,” Jones said. “When I realized I would have an opportunity at a 5th year, I reached out to our current President, Mallory Kimmel, and picked her brain about the opportunity. I think SAAC is in the position to make some positive changes in the lives of student-athletes as well as continue some of the great things SAAC is already doing in community service and social projects.”
He certainly hasn’t come into the position during the most stable time. SAAC is already working with the University to connect student athletes with resources to help them through this time of uncertainty.
“The athletic department is offering virtual yoga sessions with the training staff and weekly ‘Mindfulness Breaks’ with our sport psychologist, Dr. Becky Cook,” Jones said. “We are also still doing community service projects, such as Yards for Yeardley. Our teams walked almost 2.5 million yards to raise awareness for intimate partner violence. As always, our SAAC reps serve as the voice of the student-athlete and athletes can come to us with any concern or need they may have.”
SAAC also hosted the annual RUDY’s awards virtually for the first time, where Jones was announced as the incoming president of SAAC.
The University of Dayton is still revealing plans to adjust to life post-pandemic. No matter what happens next, Jones and SAAC will be there serving Dayton’s student-athletes.
“SAAC will adjust accordingly and do our very best to accommodate everyone,” Jones said. “As to what exactly those services might look like, it’s too early to tell as it all depends on decisions outside our control but we will do everything we can to support the decisions made by the university and administrators while best serving our student-athletes.”