By Dave McCallum
University of Delaware Athletics Director Chrissi Rawak called Friday “a difficult day for Delaware athletics, specifically fall sports.”
In announcing the university has suspended all fall sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said it will try to move some of them into spring 2021.
The announcement said the sports include football, cross country, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, rowing, men’s and women’s tennis, and men’s and women’s golf.
“No one would have imagined we would have been in a similar if not worse situation (than when the spring sports season was shut down in March),” said Rawak, who was joined by Blue Hen football coach Danny Rocco and UD football players Nolan Henderson and Kedrick Whitehead. “We have worked relentlessly to try to identify the safest way to proceed.”
Among the factors evaluated were practices, competitions and travel for all team. However, at the end of the day, Rawak knew what decision needed to be made.
“It was clear that it (having a fall season) was something that we weren’t willing to risk. The lives of our people and the risk it was going to take was not worth it,” she said. “I am grateful for the university’s support, President Assanis (Dennis), the Board of Trustees and the medical community for all of their support.
“I’m certain in my heart and head, that it’s the right decision,” she said. “But it doesn’t make it easier.”
Rawak promised all of the university’s fall sports teams that the athletic department would do everything it could to ensure they would have a competitive season, ideally in the spring.
“We will do everything we can to give our student-athletes and coaches an opportunity to compete for the University of Delaware as soon as it’s safe to do so,” she said.
Henderson, a redshirt junior quarterback, was asked how his emotions were now that most college players are realizing there probably will not be a fall season.
“Going back to last spring with the baseball and lacrosse teams we supported them through that,” he said. “I already had a couple of guys hit me up on how they got through it.
“The main thing is to put your head down and work. You can’t control when we play, but we can work really hard and use it as an opportunity to get better.”
With no games, that also means no fans will be headed to Newark, including UD football season ticketholder Wayne Voshell.
“I really wasn’t too surprised,” said Voshell, who serves as the recreation coordinator for the City of Dover’s Parks and Recreation Department. “Knowing everything that we have to do for our leagues, I can’t imagine everything that would go into something on that scale.”
Voshell, who got the season tickets five years ago for his son Benjamin, says it’s always a family day out when the Blue Hens are in Newark. This year will be different, though.
“We usually leave Dover around 9 and tailgate before and after the game,” Voshell said. “I guess we’ll have to find something else to do this fall.”
The university’s Newark campus was ground zero when the coronavirus showed up in Delaware, with instructors and students the first to be diagnosed with a positive case. UD closed its campus and moved to online classes to try to slow the spread of COVID-19. It announced a few weeks ago that its fall semester will be a mix of online classes for large groups and in-person classes for some courses with smaller enrollment.
Delaware’s emergency stay-at-home order, which closed a lot of business, slowed the spread, but it picked up steam this spring and summer as people began to get out of their houses. An outbreak at Delaware beaches was caught and aggressively tested for, but it was largely among young people who were not wearing masks or following social distance guidelines.
One of the alarming things about the testing, health officials said, is that 60 percent of the people who test positive have no symptoms and don’t know that they could be spreading it to vulnerable people.
UD’s decision follows by 24 hours an announcement that Delaware State University in Dover said it is suspending fall sports under the guidelines of its conference. Its release said that officials are hoping for shortened seasons of some kind.
The University of Delaware said that if student-athletes choose not to participate in intercollegiate athletics at any time during the summer and/or the 2020-21 academic year due to concerns about COVID-19, their scholarship will still be honored and they will remain in good standing with their team for this academic year.
While the entire Colonial Athletic Conference did not make a collective decision on sports outside of football, UD officials felt it was necessary.
“We believe that this is the right decision for us,” the press release said.
There were several peer institutions competing in the CAA Conference that have made the same decision to suspend fall sports competition.
In alignment with local and state guidelines, UD will also continue with voluntary workout participation that is currently taking place, as permitted to do so per the NCAA.
Decisions on winter sports and their competitive season will be made at a later