“Everyone was getting ready to go on that Monday (March 9),” said athletic director Jim Miller ’86. “We had our normal preparations with site representatives and visiting teams. It was business as usual.”
On March 10, the College had planned to proceed with additional sanitation and disinfecting protocols to minimize risk to spectators and team and institutional representatives. The following day, the NCAA announced that championship events were to be conducted with only essential staff and a limited number of family members in attendance.
“We were supposed to receive forms to list the spectators who would be allowed to come to the game, and we never got it, so we had an inkling that another announcement was coming,” Miller said. “Our team went through its normal practice on Thursday, and then WashU arrived and we got everything they needed to start their practice at 3 p.m.
“Then at 3:17 the announcement came, and literally 10 minutes later WashU went to their bus to drive back to St. Louis after traveling more than five hours to get here. And the season’s over. It was devastating for everybody.”
At the same time, the track and field and wrestling championship events were halted as teams received the news from site representatives.
“We were less than 16 hours from weigh-ins when we found out,” said head men’s and women’s wrestling coach Joe Norton ‘10/M ’12, whose team had qualified a program-record five individuals for the men’s championship. “Telling our guys the news was the hardest thing I’ve had to do as a head coach. Understandably, they did not take it well.
“I have told each of them that they can use this to affect them positively moving forward. They’ll have such a unique perspective on what we tell our athletes all the time—tomorrow is not guaranteed.”
With little option but to prepare for the 2020-2021 academic year, many coaches have turned to online video conferencing and other virtual means to provide support to current student-athletes and persist with recruitment. “They’re communicating and engaging with recruits in ways that we’ve never been able to before,” Miller said. “So far, the results have been really encouraging.”
The NCAA’s announcement–followed a day later by the CCIW Council of Presidents canceling all remaining conference events for the academic year—put the brakes on a promising spring season. The baseball team was ranked in the top 10 nationally in two Division III polls and had opened the season with seven straight wins. Early results for softball (a 7-1 record), women’s lacrosse (5-0) and men’s lacrosse (4-1) gave cause for excitement as well.
“We were looking at possibly the absolute most successful athletic year in the school’s history,” Miller said. “There’s no question. To have everything shut down for everyone is disappointing, but we’re all grown ups and we understand that people are dying and that is more important. It gives you a little perspective on what you have. There’s a lot of life lessons to be learned through athletics…and we had no choice.”