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Monday, October 18, 2021

Many UC Davis sports seasons canceled due to pandemic

With worsening COVID-19 case numbers and strict county guidelines, many UC Davis sports were forced to say goodbye to their season

After months of trying to maintain college athletics, UC Davis athletics have fallen victim to the real world. Nearly every sports season that would currently be playing at UC Davis has been rescheduled or canceled because of COVID-19. Athletes faced yet another hard hit after the cancelation of fall 2020 sports under the Big West Conference.

All competition for men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s indoor volleyball will not be rescheduled due to strict guidelines mandated by the Yolo County health department.

At the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, fall sports were believed to only be postponed, but later on, were officially canceled by the Big West Conference Board of Directors. The board attempted to push back all sports to the winter or spring seasons, but in the end, they came to the conclusion that it was best to cancel it all. 

The decision came after a long process involving both the schools and their counties. 

“Protecting the health and safety of our student-athletes and following public health guidelines are our top priorities,” said Big West Commissioner Dan Butterly. “Despite a strong desire to return our sport student-athletes to competition, the Board unanimously agreed that the resources and protocols needed to safely and equitably conduct fall, winter and spring sports seasons concurrently was not in the line with those priorities nor in the best interests of our student-athletes and coaches”.

After the Big West made its decision, it left many of the sports at UC Davis with decisions to make. On Jan. 6, the university announced that women’s indoor track & field would also not compete this season. 

“This was a difficult decision to make, but one that is consistent with our commitment to safeguarding student-athletes’ health, safety and well-being,” said Rocko DeLuca, the UC Davis interim director of athletics. “Head coach Ngoni Makusha and I feel this was necessary since the team would have limited opportunity to adequately prepare for the upcoming season,” 

It has been a difficult academic year for athletics, as the uncertainty surrounding all sports has lingered over colleges all across the country. As cases continue to worsen, the decisions to put these programs to a halt for this year continue, with UC Davis gymnastics as one example.

“It’s a complex situation with many layers of decisions to factor in,” said UC Davis gymnastics head coach John Lavallee. “We’ve come to a point in time where we had to make a decision, and it’s the best one we could make right now. Obviously, we are not going to slow down our progress. As soon as we can, we will get back in the gym and get back to work.”

As for the athletes, they have worked countless hours not only during their college careers but also as children. Unfortunately, many freshmen had their first college season canceled and many seniors had the last season of their careers taken away.

“It’s extra hard because I’m a senior,” said senior Kelley Hebert of the UC Davis gymnastics team. “I’ve been doing gymnastics since I was five, training 20 hours a week. It’s a huge part of my identity so it’s hard having it ripped away like this. But if this is what we have to do to keep people safe, then that’s what we have to do”.

The toughest part for coaches and athletes was that they didn’t know if the season would be canceled, so practices were inconsistent. Because the county guidelines changed depending on the status, training was difficult for indoor athletes, like gymnastics, because they had to train outside without the proper equipment. Then, around October, they got the green light to begin training indoors and began to get hopeful after a few weeks of strong practices. 

After winter break, when COVID-19 cases started to increase, athletes were told to train outside again. A week later, they were allowed to practice inside the gym again right before they got the bad news that they’re season had reached an end.

“There was so much back and forth as to whether we should train hard because we would be in the groove training hard and then be shut down,” Hebert said. “Then on the flip side we would hear, we’re getting canceled for sure.” 

Although winter sports were added to the NCAA guideline that gave seniors an extra year of eligibility, many will not be able to use it, as future goals and careers might be on the horizon. 

This past year was a very challenging one for athletes, especially since some of them had consecutive seasons canceled or postponed. It remains to be seen what occurs with basketball, football and the upcoming spring sports, but the outlook of athletics for next school year has some potential.

Written by: Katherin Raygoza — sports@theaggie.org


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