COVID-19 took over the semester of Fall 2020. Many changes were made to campus life, the biggest change being the absence of competition in sports. As the semester winds down and a new one is about to begin, students can look forward to the return of sports this coming spring semester.
Athletic Director Scott Greve says that while plans change, he is confident that sports competitions will start back up again. Athletes don’t know yet if it will be conference or a mixture of conference and out-of-conference, but they are excited and hopeful for next semester.
As of now, all 18 sports at Franciscan University of Steubenville will be playing in the spring, including the sports that had their seasons taken away from them this semester.
“Men’s and women’s basketball will still compete in the winter,” said Greve. “They’ll compete — right now it looks like from January till March. … And then the other sports will start late February to early March.”
COVID-19 will have the same impact on sports as previously.
“We’ve had to adjust practices in order to social distance, wear facial coverings, travel has been a challenge,” said Greve. “(We’re) just trying to create more safe environments for the student-athletes.”
The athletic department is excited for sports to start back up after having no competitions this fall.
“I know everybody would like to get started today,” said Greve. “But, yeah, we try to be patient and wait it out and just know that we’re ready to go as soon as we get the OK to start.”
Greve says quite a bit still needs to get done before the spring semester, but the department is working hard to stay on schedule.
The NCAA has put out guidelines for competition, saying that athletes have to be tested regularly.
Greve says that a huge part of getting sports competition back on Franciscan’s campus was the biology department’s assistance in the COVID-19 testing protocols. Dan Kuebler, who holds a doctorate in molecular and cell biology, and Joseph Pathakamuri, who holds a doctorate in molecular virology, spearhead the university’s COVID-19 testing efforts.
“They’ve done an incredible job helping us to one, get tests, and two, put a testing protocol together,” said Greve. “Our teams could even practice during the fall, and they’re working with us right now so that we can meet all the testing guidelines for the spring, so that our athletes can compete in the spring. And I can honestly say that without them … it would not have been possible for us to compete.”
“We’re very blessed,” said Greve, “because I know a lot of schools are being challenged right now just with the cost of testing and because they are doing all of that testing right here, one, it lowers the cost dramatically for us, and two, just the ability to test here on campus as opposed to having our athletes go someplace else … alleviates a lot of travel and inconvenience for the student-athletes as well.”
This spring semester will be in full swing, and the training room will be overflowing with student-athletes as they all begin competition again.
“Every (conference) sport that we have will be competing, plus rugby,” said Greve. “So it’s going to be a full slate. We’ve never done this before, so another blessing is you can just see God’s hand in it. Just from the standpoint of our being able to move forward with the turf field. … Without that field we would not have been able to do this, to have men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s lacrosse, track and field and rugby all in the same season. It just would have been impossible without that facility.”
Greve says that the coaches are anxious to get back to competition.
“It was nice to be able to at least get back to practicing this semester, I know that both the coaches and student-athletes were very thankful and excited about that,” said Greve. “The amazing thing is just the resilience of our entire community, whether it be our trainers or the coaches or the student-athletes … just the willingness to accept the guidelines and restrictions we have and their willingness to put those into place and follow them, so that we can get back to competition.”
Greve says he’s thankful for the help that’s been received from the biology department, and the support they’ve received from the university and administration.
He said, “Without that support there’s just no way that we would have been able to put every sport in one season … it’s just a real blessing to get (sports) all back on track and back to competition.”