LOCH SHELDRAKE -- The only thing predictable about life is its unpredictability. Last March as the SUNY Sullivan Generals Men's and Women's District Champion basketball teams were literally hours …
LOCH SHELDRAKE -- The only thing predictable about life is its unpredictability. Last March as the SUNY Sullivan Generals Men's and Women's District Champion basketball teams were literally hours from boarding buses to their national championship tournaments in Danville, Illinois (men's) and Port Huron, Michigan (women's) when COVID-19 hit and caused the cancellation of the tournaments. For the 28-2 number two seeded men's team and the 29-2 number eight seeded women in their respective tournaments, the hopes were for bringing home a national title.
For the men's team, arguably one of the best in recent memory, the prospect of bringing home another banner to adorn the walls of the Paul Gerry Fieldhouse was something they could almost taste. And then just like that, it ended. For Chris DePew, Dean of Student Development Services and Director of Athletics, what has transpired ever since has amounted to a maelstrom of confusion. This fall with 80 percent of the student body on remote learning with the exception of the Culinary Arts, Theatre Arts, Respiratory Care and Nursing programs attending classes coupled with a restriction barring competitive sports, DePew and his staff were left to consider their options going forward.
The National Junior College Athletic Association had authorized 60 preseason practices but SUNY Sullivan opted to not participate.
“We had to consider what was in the best interest of safety for our students,” noted DePew.
The plan was to have the winter sports to begin on January 4 and run until April 15. Cross-country would have been competing in March and April.
However, decisions made by conferences that include local four-year schools like the State University of New York Athletic Conference and Liberty League, to cancel winter sports, and on the academic side, the recent decision by the SUNY System to not return to in-person instruction until February 1, there's still much uncertainty.
“This puts us in a holding pattern,” said DePew. “Is it realistic for us to offer a full athletic slate of fall and winter sports then?”
These actions run contrary to the NJCAA's plans to move ahead across the country with its winter programs. This past weekend a team from Mills, Iowa traveled to Mississippi to play Talahasse, Florida in a scrimmage jamboree basketball tournament. For the currently inactive Generals, this is something hard to fathom. Why, they ask are players going to places like Lackawanna CC in this area engaged in full preparation for basketball and in NYS everything is on hold? The answer is that the state's policy is to err on the side of caution.
“The situation for us certainly is problematic,” added DePew given the unpredictability of the state of the pandemic three months from now. Lots of questions are up for discussion. “Can we run our programs without housing our students? No final decision has been made as far as whether to open the residence halls. Is it in our best interest to open them? What about the other schools in our region? If they choose not to participate, who do we play?”
One piece of good news out of all this is that the NJCAA Board of Regents of which DePew is a member voted to offer a blanket eligibility waiver for the 2020-21 school year. That means even if players do get to play, the time won't count against their eligibility whatever happens this spring.
To put it succinctly DePew notes, “Can we pull off having both our fall and winter sports? We have challenges and we are doing everything we can to figure out a safe way to reestablish our programs.”
At present there is a vacancy for the Women's head basketball coaching position. Derek Marchione recently resigned and accepted a position at the University of New Hampshire, as the Wildcats Women's Basketball Assistant Coach and Recruiting Coordinator.
DePew and staff have been conducting interviews and narrowing down the field. But until it is clear whether or not the season will go forward, no final decision will be rendered. For now, it's wait and see.
When it comes to the near future of athletics at SUNY Sullivan, what is certain is that uncertainty rules (again).