The athletic faculties at Rowan University will have to wait a little bit longer before seeing any game day action this year.
On Jan. 6, Rowan’s Athletic Director Dr. John Giannini announced that the school’s winter and postponed fall sports were officially canceled for this academic year. This decision came after weighing all the factors, including the COVID-19 case count and seeing how college teams across the country are dealing with the current situation.
“I think, obviously, the pandemic continues to be very serious; cases continue to go up, so that’s obviously the primary factor,” Giannini said. “The other factor for me was observing Division 1. I broadcast Division 1 basketball games and I talk to people on that level on a daily basis, and to be very blunt, they are not having a good experience. There are constant cancellations, there are teams who have gone over a month without being able to practice or play. There is constant uncertainty and anxiety.”
This decision was made despite the fact that the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) is going forward with mini seasons for sports like men’s and women’s basketball. However, after talking to Rowan coaches, this was not a strong enough reason to change his mind.
“I don’t understand the point, and I have told my colleagues in the NJAC that. I think a lot of athletic directors have positive intentions and just want the kids to play some games, but you can’t tell me worrying about COVID and playing four to five games over four to five weeks is a worthwhile experience, I don’t believe it is,” Giannini said. “And then we have had coaches in contact sports like soccer and football say ‘we don’t want to risk a kid tearing an ACL or having surgery and missing the real season next fall.’”
It is also important to note that this decision is not affecting the athletes’ eligibility, seeing as the NCAA has already granted all fall and winter athletes another year of eligibility, no matter if they are playing this season or not.
With the decision for the fall and winter seasons being official, Giannini’s main priority now is making sure the spring sports are able to have a season.
“What we want to do is focus on the spring sports for these reasons. First…the fact is spring sports were canceled last year, everyone wants to make every effort to have them not be canceled two years in a row. Number two, they are outdoors with greater distancing and much lower risk. Number three, I think everyone in society is hoping that the pandemic and cases of COVID go on the decline over the next several months and the number of vaccines increase,” Giannini said. “So for all those reasons, we remain hopeful of spring sports.”
Giannini also pointed out how if they were to play both spring and fall sports at the same time, it would cause a conflict.
“And if we try to combine the postponed fall sports with spring sports, there is some penalizing of the spring sports, because there are only so many facilities, there is only so much practice time available, there are only so many athletic trainers available,” Giannini said. “So rather than [that], even if we were to have spring sports, we would want them to have as much of a full experience as possible, which is really not realistic if you are also trying to keep up fall sports at the same time.”
As of now, teams continue to train and are now shifting into more normal practices that allow contact, due to Rowan’s campus-wide COVID testing this semester, which is a step forward compared to last semester. This step was an important one to Giannini since he knows how important practice is for these athletes.
“We are not having competitions, but we are having practices; we think it is critical that our athletes continue to develop individually and as teams,” Giannini said. “It’s critical that our coaches are around our athletes to see how they are doing, coaches need to see their student athletes and have a feel for things like mental health and their academic progress.”
The decision about the spring season will hopefully be decided and announced around mid-February.
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