Well, we were hoping…
When the sports world fell apart last spring, we all crossed our fingers and hoped – or prayed, or whatever we do – and said “Well, this sucks for the athletes – especially the seniors – but we’ll get back to normal soon.”
As stated in a letter to the public from Cornell Athletic Director Andy Noel, “The prognosis is no better than when spring and fall 2020 sports were canceled, and by most metrics the situation is worse now.” In the letter announcing the cancellation of winter sports at Cornell, Noel added, “Though Cornell has done an impressive job containing the virus on campus, it is in large part due to restrictions that would need to be lifted to allow athletic competition, including current travel and visitor policies. The Department will continue to advocate for the safe resumption of athletic competition when it is appropriate and safe to do so.”
I share Noel’s sentiment that “The reality doesn't reduce the heartbreak of our student-athletes and coaches who have committed themselves to success,” and I have some degree of sympathy to athletic administrators charged with being the bearers of such unrelenting bad news.
I say that because when one looks at the incredible maze of moving parts involved for decision makers at all levels, one can get a headache.
As I often do, I reached out to Bill Bryant, who served as the Ithaca City School District’s Athletic Director for 20-plus years, and is now the top dog for the (19 school) Interscholastic Athletic Conference. Clearly weary of explaining this boondoggle (but gracious nonetheless) Bryant said, “We are moving forward with bowling and swimming seasons, and we were planning to include indoor track, but given we use the tracks at Cornell, Ithaca College and SUNY Cortland, and they’re all shut down, we can’t do it.”
Bryant made it more confusing when he stated that several other Sections throughout New York State did in fact hold their fall seasons (Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo and Albany, for example), although Section IV did not.
Bryant explained how many moving parts are in play, saying “A friend of mine is involved in the NYSPHSAA (New York State Public High School Athletic Association), and he was part of the COVID-19 Task Force. The group represented all eleven sections, comprised 36 people, and had representatives from the State Education Department, Health Department, Transportation Department [and] Administrators.” Yes, my head started hurting.
The “moving parts” scenario was repeated when Bill explained that the decisions put forth for Section IV involved bringing together all five conferences (IAC, STAC, MAC, Delaware Valley and Tri-Valley), and he has become more proficient in Zoom meetings than he ever imagined possible.
As an administrator, Bryant sees his share of angry emails and social media posts, and while he knows it comes with the territory, at the end of the day he is just as disappointed as the rest of us. “It’s very disheartening,” Bryant offered. “At this point, if there is a basketball season in January, we will have to limit the games to 50 people. You have players, coaches, refs and table staff, and there’s your 50. We won’t be able to have spectators. That’s frustrating.”
He added, “Of course, it’s about the safety and health of the students, but I believe there is a mental health component too. I really feel for the kids, I can’t imagine what it’s like for them to be disconnected from their coaches and their teammates. I really don’t want what happened to the class of 2020 to happen to the class of 2021.”
The passing of NFL great Paul Hornung brought to mind a case of mistaken identity involving one of our local icons.
Several years ago, retired Cornell lacrosse coach Richie Moran was asked to attend a football game at Notre Dame, and like any self-respecting Irish Catholic, Riche was pleased to accept. The fellow that had invited him had secured some VIP passes, and Richie was on the field prior to the game, taking in the grandeur of the legendary stadium, the Golden Dome and campus. He noticed a man staring at him, and after a few minutes the man approached him sheepishly. Richie was accustomed to such treatment at lacrosse games, but this was new. When the man said, “I am a longtime fan and I’d be honored to get my photo taken with you.” Richie obliged, posed for the photo and shook the man’s hand. The star-struck fellow turned to his companion and said, “I can’t wait to show my dad that I had my picture taken with Paul Horning.”
That mix-up caused quite a few laughs. If it happens again, it might give someone a heart attack if they think that Mr. Hornung has returned.