Tim Foley and Zachary Connell—
Athletes and coaches around campus are reeling from the decision made on March 16 by the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference to cancel the remainder of spring athletics. The seasons were only just getting started.
The Fitchburg State baseball team was in Florida as it played through its annual spring training schedule; the softball team had a ten-game schedule in Myrtle Beach; the women’s lacrosse team was off to a great start after winning three of its first four games; both men and women’s track and field were getting ready to compete in their first meet of the season at Bridgewater State on March 21.
However, it has all fallen apart, and their seasons have been cut short. Coaches and athletes alike have been reacting.
Baseball Head Coach Shawn Manfredo was devastated upon hearing the news. “I was sick to my stomach and incredibly sad thinking of the amount of time these players had put in. Putting myself in the shoes of our seniors I had trouble not breaking down while delivering the news to our team during the Florida trip. This group has been through a lot. The baseball field was not playable the entire 2019 season so they were displaced. They had almost no fall season during a coaching change and now with the promise of an exciting spring season that it might all be worth it, it was taken away.”
Brianna Young is a senior captain on Fitchburg State’s Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Team.
Young offered her thoughts on athlete eligibility. She said “I am very upset. I do not want to end my career like this. Originally we were told by MASCAC that they would not cancel our season and try their best to give us a season. But since the championships for Winter and Spring were already canceled student athletes wouldn’t be working for anything. I understand where they are coming from but I wish they could do more. The NCAA is working to grant us eligibility, but it is going to be hard for some seniors to use the last of their eligibility because you still have to be attending the same school to use it. Maybe they will waive that requirement but as of now none of us are sure.”
Young raises an excellent point for seniors who are hoping to return to their teams. An athlete needs to still be enrolled in their school to be able to utilize their extra year of eligibility. This isn’t possible for all athletes, mainly because of how they may need to move away or start their jobs after graduating, and wouldn’t have the time or the need to be enrolled back in school.
Baseball senior Jack Gallant reflected on the time he got to spend with the program.
“This team in my senior season was one I’ll never forget. The seniors this year that I played with over the last four years – I don’t think I’d want anyone else with me along for this ride. We were so close in winning the MASCAC last year we knew we were going to win it this year. We’ve worked too hard to get cut short but you can’t control everything, in life or the game of baseball, and I’m just happy that I was able to play with such talented guys,” said Gallant.
Coach of the softball team Merry MacDonald acknowledged how difficult the cancellation has been on her as a coach.
“It has been one of the hardest things I have had to do as a coach, to tell my team—especially my seniors—that their season is over and after all their hard work and commitment all year the chance to play this season has been ripped away,” said MacDonald.
Track and Field Coach Jim Jellison hopes that this situation can help put it all in perspective for college athletes.
“The seniors in all teams, including mine, didn’t really expect it to end this way. They are confused and frustrated,” said Jellison. “One of my comments to my athletes is to never take your sport and time in it for granted. It can end in a heartbeat. That is obviously what has happened.”