A season nearly two years in the making was cut short on Tuesday as the Northwest Athletic Conference announced it was canceling the remainder of the spring sports season for its member institutions, including Umpqua Community College.
The NWAC’s decision means the end of the first baseball season at UCC in 35 years and the conclusion of the school’s second season of track and field.
“Obviously, I’m very sad for my players,” said UCC baseball coach Jeremiah Robbins, who has been working since he was hired in April of 2018 to restart the Riverhawks’ program.
“This issue we got is much bigger than baseball and we all understand that and realize that,” Robbins added. “We had a great meeting with the players (on Thursday). Obviously there’s a lot of anxiety about everything that’s going on and I think this was the best result for this, to kind of be able to move forward.”
It’s not a surprising announcement for student-athletes at UCC. Other organizations such as the NBA, MLB, the Pac-12 Conference and high schools have all chosen to suspend, postpone or cancel their seasons in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“It just seemed like it was time,” NWAC executive director Marco Azurdio said. “As much as we wanted our kids to compete, their health and safety has got to be our number one priority.”
The conference had already suspended spring competitions on March 13, but Azurdio says his staff was working on modified schedules in the hopes that the spring sports could at least play a shortened season.
“Our idea was, if we can do it, let’s have a plan ready to roll out all the while knowing that we weren’t going to be shocked if we had to make the tough decision at the end,” Azurdio said.
The Riverhawks were only 10 games into a nearly 60-game baseball season, while the track and field program had participated in only one meet so far, the Erik Anderson Memorial Icebreaker at Linfield College on March 6.
The NWAC has confirmed that spring sport student-athletes who were enrolled full-time in 2020 will not be charged a season of competition regardless of their number of games played. The conference is also considering waiver limits and roster sizes for the 2020-21 school year to support returning athletes.
“This is not anything that anybody can control in terms of what happened and so we thought let’s try to make it as good for (the student-athletes) as we possibly can,” Azurdio said.
He added that the NWAC is working with the NCAA to see if they’ll honor the extra year of eligibility for student-athletes who transfer to a four-year school.
With so much uncertainty surrounding when things will return to some level of normalcy, Robbins hopes his players will take time to focus on things other than athletics.
“This is just a time to get back with your families, get to a safe spot and kind of relax a little bit,” Robbins said. “And when they open the doors back up for this thing, we’ll take some steps to see what we’re going to do at that point.”