Wittenberg, NCAC postpone sports competition until Dec. 31

Wittenberg’s Joe Fincham coaches during a game against Allegheny on Oct. 12, 2019, at Edwards-Maurer Field in Springfield. David Jablonski/Staff
Wittenberg’s Joe Fincham coaches during a game against Allegheny on Oct. 12, 2019, at Edwards-Maurer Field in Springfield. David Jablonski/Staff

It will be first fall without Wittenberg football since World War II

The North Coast Athletic Conference became the latest league to postpone its fall sports season, announcing Wednesday it has suspended intercollegiate athletics competition through December 31 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Among the schools affected is Wittenberg University. This will be the first fall without football for Wittenberg, one of the most successful programs in NCAA Division III history, since 1945 when a third straight season was cancelled because of World War II.

The NCAC’s decision comes two weeks after it announced it had pushed the start of fall sports back until Sept. 19.

“I think what is important to note about this is since May we’ve been tirelessley working under a set of assumptions both from the NCAA and from our local health department and all of our health professionals,” said Wittenberg Athletic Director Gary Williams, “and then last Thursday when the NCAA published their resocialization update, it became increasingly clear we could not meet those expectations on many levels. On one level is the cost and availability of (COVID-19) testing. The other is just the realization that one of the key game criteria for all of this is a reduction of local cases, and it’s not trending in the right direction.”

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In addition to football, the following Wittenberg teams, all of which start their seasons before Dec. 31, are affected: men’s and women’s basketball; men’s and women’s soccer; women’s volleyball; men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s golf; men’s and women’s swimming and diving; and women’s field hockey.

While holding on to hope the fall sports will be played in 2021, Wittenberrg will focus on giving its student-athletes meaningful experiences on campus this fall even if they won’t be competing against other colleges.

“We know we need to look at three levels of engagement,” Williams said. “Skill development, strength and conditioning and leadership and personal development.”

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Williams expects to see a domino affects as other conferences across Division III postpone their seasons. Many already have. He hopes people across the nation take note and do their part to help the situation improve.

“There’s a lot of attention nationally on Major League Baseball and Division I and the NBA,” Williams said, “and there are this week thousands of small-college student athletes, just in the state of Ohio, all being asked to sacrifice their collegiate experiences. Even though we’re not on ESPN and people don’t hear about us, I hope and pray people wake up and see what’s happening around them and realize unless we as a society and as a community don’t come together and practice good social distancing and wear masks, we’re not going to have sports. In May, when we were getting ready for today, we never imagined we’d be worse today than we were then.”