Athletics: Coronavirus ends a Cajuns career, could extend others
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, March 18, 2020
When coach Gerry Glasco met with his UL softball team last Thursday to tell his Ragin’ Cajuns how the deadly coronavirus pandemic sweeping the United States was going to impact their to-that-point magical 2020 season, one that has them sitting No. 1 in current NCAA RPI rankings, one of his biggest concerns was his eight seniors.
Their future, it seemed then and still now, is the most uncertain of all.
The NCAA had announced that day it was canceling all winter and spring sports championships, including the Women’s College World Series, effectively ending – unless individual conferences bizarrely opted to keep on playing for a conference title only – their season.
And in some cases, their playing career.
But there also was an out.
There was the possibility – one the NCAA subsequently suggested it will permit – of an extra year of eligibility for all, meaning the seniors, if they want, likely can come back for another run in 2021.
What are the Cajuns’ seniors – including star pitchers Megan Kleist and Summer Ellyson – planning to do?
Glasco does not yet know, nor does he want to.
“My message to the seniors simply was, ‘(I’m not) going to ask you,’ ” he said in a telephone interview Monday.
“I didn’t want that opinion, or whether you wanted to come back, or thought you were going to come back, ‘today.’ Because I think they don’t know.”
The news had hit hard.
Emotions were raw. Reaction was all over the board.
“I think some are angry,” Glasco said, “and they’d (say), ‘No, I don’t want to go through this for nothing again,’ today, and then two weeks (later) they may die to play ball again.
“And I think some might say, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna play; I want to play.’ And then two weeks (later) they say, ‘You know what? I can’t afford to turn down a $50,000 a year teaching job to play one more year of softball.’
“So I don’t think they know,” he added. “I just told them, the one thing I mentioned – ‘If they (NCAA officials) do say that spring sports can play another year, they make it feasible, then I’ll do everything I can in my power to make all of them welcome back.’ ”
NOW NOT THE TIME
For Matt Deggs’ UL baseball players, the situation is both similar and far different.
For some of them, hundreds of thousands of dollars – maybe even millions – could be at stake.
Shortstop Hayden Cantrelle is a highly ranked Major League Baseball Draft prospect – No. 38 overall back before the season began, according to D1Baseball.com – as a junior.
Will he be willing to forego the June draft and come back in 2021?
And what about senior pitcher prospect Brandon Young, who was to have started against Coastal Carolina last Friday night – the first UL game scheduled after play was suspended?
Might he want to return too?
Deggs did not know the answers to those questions and more on Monday, let alone last Thursday. Nor does he want to. Not quite yet.
“I don’t think now is the time,” Deggs said. “Because there’s not anything 100 percent on where we’re going or heading. I think these kids need to process everything that happened.
“And, you know, we’ve got plenty of time to make allowances, or try to re-recruit guys, or make adjustments to the roster.”
Deggs just hopes that everyone is treated fairly in the process.
“It’s imperative that it’s not just the seniors,” he said.
“I think everybody on the roster needs a blanket redshirt, or a do-over, a re-set, whatever we want to call it.
“I look at it like a game that hasn’t gone five innings, and it starts raining,” Deggs added. “You know, if it’s canceled it’s canceled. It never happened.”
'EVERYBODY WAS IN SHOCK'
What never happened for UL women’s basketball coach Garry Brodhead is his club’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament semifinal-round game against No. 1 seed Troy at the Smoothie King Center, an NBA arena in New Orleans.
It was supposed to have been last Saturday.
But the Sun Belt nixed the remainder of its tournament, as did many other conferences across the country – on the men’s and women’s sides – that hadn’t finished theirs.
For the Cajuns, that meant a premature end to the career of lone senior Kendall Bess.
It meant not getting to play in New Orleans, not getting to see if they could make the improbable possible.
Adding to the sadness, the NCAA Tournament itself was canceled and March Madness came to a screeching half – creating a different sort of craziness altogether.
“At first everybody was in shock, because we didn’t think, and I didn’t think, it was gonna happen,” Brodhead said. “But it happened. It became reality pretty quick.”
On Monday, the Sun Belt canceled all sports activities and competition, including practices and championships, for the remainder of the school year, ending things for all.
For a basketball-playing senior like Bess, who averaged a few points and a rebound or two in her 10 or so minutes per game, what’s done is done.
The year, and a career, is finished, if not complete. She'll get no do-over.
But for UL softball seniors like Ellyson and Kleist, and even baseball juniors and seniors like Cantrelle and Young, the future is uncertain.
That’s why Cajun spring-sport coaches like Deggs and Glasco are happy the NCAA seems willing to grant that extra season of eligibility for those willing to use it.
“I do think they’re gonna try to do right by these student-athletes, which is awesome, in saying that,” Deggs said. “That’s what everybody wants.”
“Not being able to have a Senior Day, not being able to walk to home plate your last out, not being able to walk into the circle your last inning of pitching – I feel like they gave up a lot,” Glasco added with reference to his seniors. “So that (making it possible next year) has become a priority for me as a coach. And that’s what I told them.”
Glasco’s arms are open.
But he wants his seniors in uniform again only if, and when, they’re ready and willing.
“We want to wait as long as possible,” Glasco said, “before we ask them to make the final decision whether they’re coming back.”