Coaches and athletes react to WIAC cancelling fall sports

Published: Jul. 28, 2020 at 7:56 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The roar of the Blugold football team racing onto the turf at Carson Park will be noticeably absent this fall. Nearly a full calendar year of WIAC sports has been lost to the coronavirus.

UW-Eau Claire Director of Athletics Dan Schumacher says, “It just goes along with the decisions in winter and spring. In its totality, it’s devastating, in it’s totality. It’s not just football or volleyball but we have the largest athletic department in the state, over 800 student-athletes, this affects everybody because now there are kids in the winter time wondering if their going to be able to come back and have another chance at it right now, because those questions have not been answered.”

While some seniors will have the option to keep their final year of eligibility, that won’t be the case for the majority. Blugolds volleyball coach Kim Wudi says every student-athlete needs to do what’s best for themselves.

Wudi says, ”Across athletics in all divisions is that these are students and they have a plan for their lives too. We can’t have their plan for them so we’ll work with each one of them, certainly if they want to come back, we’ll welcome them back and we’ll adjust our recruiting accordingly but at the same time we’re not having those conversations yet.”

For UW-Eau Claire football coach Wesley Beschorner, his message to his players is to keep competing whether it’s on the field or simply in life. Beschorner says, “We’re going to continue to recruit, we’re going to continue to help these guys anyway we can. I mean if it’s more community service or we are going to find a way to compete because I firmly believe that 18 to 22 year old men that choose the sport of football, and need to compete and need to go out there and measure themselves against something so we are going to find a way to do that.”

UW-Stout football coach Clayt Birmingham believes many of his seniors will opt to play next year because of the friendships they’ve made as part of the Blue Devil family.

Birmingham adds, “So you put your life on hold for a semester or a year, you’ll never get this time back. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that these kids are going through and hopefully some of them take that into consideration and I get it, you have to move on and some parents want them to move on so they’re out of their pocketbook but this a major decision for them all.”

For Blue Devil sophomores Cannon Griner and Mason Priebe, they understand many of the upperclassmen and those they look up to may choose to move forward with their lives.

Priebe says, “I mean we’re Division 3 athletes so it’s not like we have a scholarship to sit on and come back to school. Not financially possible for a lot of people. A lot of people are just missing their season whether they have eligibility or not. I can’t imagine how I would feel, so I just feel awful for those guys.”

Monday was a difficult day for student-athletes and coaches in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

The WIAC announced the cancellation of all fall sports for the upcoming academic year.

With the abrupt end to the winter sports season in March, the cancellation of the spring sports season and now the fall campaign, all sports have now been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the decision to cancel all fall sports was not unexpected, coaches say not being able to compete is heartbreaking for their student-athletes.

The WIAC joins several other D3 conferences in canceling fall sports.

Coaches say their concern is for the well-being of their players and supporting them through these frustrating times.

"It's been a roller-coaster, I think as much as we probably expected the decision, it still hits you, emotions are pretty raw right now with our team and our staff and certainly I think all of Blugold nation is hurting right now," said UWEC volleyball coach Kim Wudi.

“When I heard the news, everybody was disappointed obviously but it’s not like a total blindside. So our biggest concern right now is our players and our seniors to start with so the first thing I did last night when I heard the news was to pick up the phone and call each senior and make sure their doing all right,” said UW-Stout football coach Clayt Birmingham.

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