While the Patriot League’s cancellation of fall sports devastated Lehigh student-athletes, some were able to accept the decision as one of safety first amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senior football cornerback Divine Buckrham said he first found out the news when his coach gave him a call right after the message had popped up on his computer.
“At first, I couldn’t even believe it,” Buckrham said, hoping it was only a temporary hold on the season. “But, after a while, I was kind of like, ‘We can’t control this.’ It’s an unprecedented situation. All we can do is follow the rules for now.”
Senior women’s volleyball co-captain Sabrina Lancaster echoed Buckhram’s thoughts.
“I was kind of in shock when it did happen,” Lancaster said. “I did consider that a possibility, but when it actually happened, it just kind of hit different. I was devastated and really heartbroken that I wouldn’t be able to play with my coaches and teammates in the fall.”
Despite all the swirling negativity, Lancaster said she is staying hopeful for some kind of season in the spring.
Athletic Director Joe Sterrett said the main factor to canceling fall sports was looking at the overall health trends of different sports coming back.
“Major League Soccer came back and started to play and so forth, and they had teams that struggled with an increase in the number of positive cases,” Sterrett said. “So we were watching all of this happen, and it got to a point where we felt it was in the best interest of the health in our athlete communities and, by extension, the campus community.”
Since then, outbreaks have hampered the start of the Major League Baseball season, too. At least 17 players on the Miami Marlins have tested positive for coronavirus.
One of the biggest differences between the Ivy League’s decision and the Patriot League’s decision to cancel fall sports is that Patriot League student-athletes are allowed to practice together when it’s safe to return to campus, while the Ivy League will not.
“I think that Lehigh has a lot of the safety precautions in mind,” said sophomore football defensive back Jack Bush. “They were telling us some of the stuff we’re going to have to do in order to come back. They’re going to take every precaution to keep us safe. In my perspective, as long as I’m there working with the team, that’s all I want.”
Although it’s the safest choice, Sterrett understands how difficult the decision was.
“Coaches want to coach, kids want to compete,” Sterrett said. “It’s like taking a course and never having any examination of whether you’ve learned the material. That’s what competition is in sports, it’s an opportunity to see if you’ve learned and practiced and developed your skills at a level that’s better than someone else’s either individually, or as a team.”
Though there is still much uncertainty regarding the pandemic and the fall semester, Buckrham is choosing to stay positive and appreciates the fact he still has a chance to play football with his teammates at practice.
Lancaster said one of the advantages to having some season in the spring would be to get another shot at winning the Patriot League Championship.
“That’s something we strive for my entire career, and our entire Lehigh programs’ career,” Lancaster said. “Last season, we didn’t make it to the Patriot League Tournament, but we’re on a projection of getting there and hopefully winning. We have great incoming freshmen… I think that would be an advantage to us, and we can give Lehigh volleyball another PLC (Patriot League Championship).”“