Senior athletes can return, but must pay for a full year of school

Alex Emerson and Peter Lujan
Transcript correspondents
aaemerso@owu.edu
pllujan@owu.edu

The coronavirus pandemic served up a double-dose of misfortune and heartache for 105 senior athletes at Ohio Wesleyan.

They not only lost all the comfort, support and rewards of being on campus and attending classes, but after four years of hard work and sacrifice their final season of competition vanished in a flash.

Not all is lost. Since the cancellation of spring sports, the NCAA announced it would grant senior athletes another semester of eligibility, but not without strings attached.

The organization’s rules limit student-athletes to four seasons of competition in a five-year period, but the NCAA is allowing athletes to apply so that they can play and have eligibility for another year, as noted in an NCAA press release.

The catch? Seniors must commit to return for a full academic year. So students would have to pay for another two semesters of school in order to take advantage of this extension.

Ohio Wesleyan is working with the NCAA and the NCAC regarding questions about athlete participation and eligibility. Student-athletes will receive updates and information as it becomes available.

Doug Zipp, OWU’s director of Athletics, said some may return.

“It is our goal that our student-athletes graduate in four years and then use their Ohio Wesleyan education and do great things,” Zipp said. “I have talked with a few seniors who are interested in considering a return to Ohio Wesleyan to take advantage of the NCAA blanket waiver, which provides an additional year of eligibility.”

But the situation clearly presents a dilemma for some seniors who can’t afford additional tuition or who have plans for after college.

For instance, Jaliyah Atkinson, a senior on the women’s track and field roster, doesn’t have the time to take advantage of renewed eligibility and said she doubts that OWU can reduce tuition because it has its own financial woes.

“I am not planning to stay a year for eligibility because I already have life plans set up that I plan to follow through regardless of the COVID-19 setback,” she said. “I also would not pay to come back to OWU to play sports. It’s way too expensive and I wouldn’t want the classes I would have to take affect my GPA.”

Senior Tyler Mansfield, a member of the women’s swimming & diving team, finds herself in a similar situation.

“That does not help committing students like myself who are missing out on a large chunk of their spring education,” Mansfield said. “I do not plan to stay a year for eligibility because I have applied and been accepted to graduate school in the fall.”

Zipp said if any students do plan on returning, they must take extra steps to make it happen.

“If a student-athlete graduates, they can re-enroll in a second baccalaureate program or be accepted into a full-time graduate program,” Zipp said. “Any student-athlete who is interested in exploring this option, we are working individually with them to navigate this path.”

Meanwhile, the athletes have not been abandoned, despite the unforeseen cancellation of all athletic competition, Zipp said.

“We are so very sad and disappointed for our student-athletes and specifically our seniors who seasons came to such an abrupt end,” Zipp said. “Our coaching staff has been in constant communication with our student-athletes, checking in several times per week, having team meetings, virtual workouts, educational sessions and academic check-ins.”

OWU senior Nick Braydich, a member of the golf team, said he will not return, but his buddy, senior Ken Keller on the golf team at Youngstown State University, probably will.

“My friend on the team is staying in the area and he’s psyched about the extension,” Braydich said. “He didn’t know if he would be able to play next year after he couldn’t play this season.”

Keller said he loves competing and is thankful that the extension gives him more time to practice his craft.

“The biggest reason I chose to use my extra year of eligibility is that I now have the opportunity to develop my game for another year,” Keller said. “I also did not want to miss the opportunity to compete in another conference championship since this year was canceled. It also gives me the opportunity to take more classes and compete in more tournaments. ”

The NCAA adjusted financial aid rules to allow teams to carry more members on scholarship to account for incoming recruits and student-athletes who had been in their last year of eligibility and decided to return for an additional year.

Colleges were also granted the flexibility by the NCAA to give students the opportunity to return for 2020-21 without requiring that financial aid be provided at the same level awarded for the previous year, acknowledging the financial difficulty now stalking universities.

“The (NCAA) Council’s decision gives individual schools the flexibility to make decisions at a campus level,” chairman M. Grace Calhoun said in a press release. “Schools also will have the ability to use the NCAA’s Student Assistance Fund to pay for scholarships for students who take advantage of the additional eligibility flexibility in 2020-21.”

Competitors grieve Bishop’s lost athletic season

Peter Lujan, Erin Ross and Hailey de la Vara
Transcript correspondents
pllujan@owu.edu
emross@owu.edu
hhdelava@owu.edu

When the novel coronavirus closed Ohio Wesleyan, all athletic events ground to a halt for the remainder of the spring semester, wiping out the aspirations of more than 500 athletes from 25 teams.

The abrupt ending to the season sent everyone packing, heading back home while leaving many heartbroken and devastated. For senior athletes, the last semester of playing for the Battling Bishops vanished before their eyes.

Senior Cirrus Robinson, a four time national champion with five All-American titles in women’s track and field, was at the nationals meet in Winston Salem, North Carolina to compete in the high jump when she heard the news.

She never got the chance to compete – the meet was canceled after the team arrived.

“I was surrounded by athletes, many that I know personally by now, with their chances taken from them in real time,” Robinson said. “There were people crying outside and in the hallways. Everyone was on the phone. It was heartbreaking, especially because in retrospect it was only the tip of the iceberg.”

Robinson, who’s participated in six national track and field competitions, said it’s difficult to accept the fact that her time competing for OWU has ended.

“I have zero regrets or longings about my career as a Bishop,” she said. “That said, this is still not easy. My teammates, who are everything to me, deserved more chances to shine and show themselves this season.”

The NCAA has granted another year of eligibility to spring sport seniors, she said.

“I know many of my friends in the NCAC and NCAA will be using this to finish what they started,” Robinson said. “I’m so happy for them and I will surely be hanging on the fence to watch them achieve their goals.”

Most student athletes accumulate a long history of work, so this abrupt ending to the season was heartbreaking, said Julia Dickman, a sophomore on the track and field team.

“This is my first season off from sports in 12 years,” Dickman said. “I’ve never not known a spring or fall season without games, meets or being with my best friends and my teammates.”

Ashley Smiley, on the women’s track and field and soccer teams, was in Belize for a travel learning course when she heard the news. She initially thought everything was being blown out of proportion.

“When I heard that the spring season was cancelled, it didn’t seem real,” Smiley said. “Once I came back and saw how rapid everything was spreading, I understood the decision in order to try and keep everyone safe and healthy.”

OWU’s men’s baseball team was in Florida competing when these rapidly escalating events initially caught senior right handed pitcher Justin Grubb by surprise. But the reality of the season’s end didn’t take long to set in.

“I pretty much knew when we had two games left in our Florida trip,” Grubb said. “It was pretty hard because I had pitched the day before and didn’t think that it would be my last.”

Initially speculation circulated that the season would only be postponed.

“College athletics has not only allowed me to continue to play the game that I love, but also has given me friendships that will last forever.” – Justin Grubb

“At first I thought the decision was very quick to the trigger and not necessary to cancel an entire season,” Grubb said. “However, it doesn’t seem like this virus is going to go away anytime soon, so in the end they made the right decision.”

Despite the strange and sad position seniors find themselves in, Grubb was able to recall fondly his time playing collegiate baseball.

“I’ll remember all the stories I’ve had with my teammates over the years, and how much we’ve grown and changed in just four years,” he said. “College athletics has not only allowed me to continue to play the game that I love, but also has given me friendships that will last forever.”

As much as senior women’s softball pitcher Kendall Kaiser is sadden by the end of the season, she said valuable life lessons can be learned.

“Having my senior softball season cut short so quickly helped me realize to never take things for granted,” she said. “Luckily, I was informed of the news before I had played my final game, so I was able to change my mindset to just play because I love the game and to play with confidence,”

“We will re-establish our purpose and prepare in an even more meaningful way.  I expect we will be even better due to this experience.” – Kris Boey

Delivering the unwelcome news to athletes was an emotional task for coaches, said Mike Plantholt, coach of the Ohio Wesleyan men’s lacrosse team.

“We brought everyone into Branch Rickey arena and I had them sit on the bleachers … I just tried to be straight up and to the point with them on the developments,” Plantholt said. “In our program we try to tackle situations and problems head-on and focus on the things we have control over.”

Though emotions and tensions were high, Plantholt said he went about the situation as calmly and rationally as possible.

“At that point we had zero control over the season being cancelled so we just focused on the next steps. It was just business as usual,” Plantholt said.

Finding a positive, Kris Boey, coach of the men’s and women’s track and field teams, said he believes this extra-long offseason could have benefits.

“I expect it will leave our team hungry and wanting more,” Boey said. “We will re-establish our purpose and prepare in an even more meaningful way.  I expect we will be even better due to this experience.”

And as we live through one of the most rapid spreading pandemics in the world’s history, Plantholt has a message for everyone who may be feeling scared or overwhelmed.

“This quarantine will not last, but our team, the Ohio Wesleyan athletics program, and our university will,” Plantholt said.

Nike swoosh and Bob the Bishop will team up in the fall

Updated April 23, 2019

By Jacey Scheffel

Transcript correspondent

jsscheff@owu.edu

The red and black will get a new look this upcoming season with all 25 varsity sports switching to Nike uniforms.

The Athletics department at Ohio Wesleyan University recently signed a five year contract with sports retailer, BSN SPORTS. Effective on March 1, all 25 teams will be sporting the Nike swoosh.

As a part of the BSN SPORTS’ Nike Collegiate Select program, OWU will purchase all athletic uniforms and gear from the vendor, Doug Zipp, Ohio Wesleyan Athletics director said.

The switch was made so the department could be more uniform. All teams will be under one umbrella and look similar.

“It’s more to be consistent around our department and that we know Ohio Wesleyan is represented in the right way,” Zipp said. “When we get off the bus people know Ohio Wesleyan is arriving because we all look the same. And it doesn’t matter if it’s the football team, the field hockey team, the volleyball team, you know.”

To achieve this similarity, uniform logos will be constant across teams. There will be a lot of choices, but the Bishop head, fonts and other logos will be the same style, Zipp said.

Along with an easier purchasing process, the university will receive a discount for purchasing in bulk, Zipp said.

Since 2012, the Ohio Wesleyan football team has purchased Nike through BSN SPORTS under the direction of Coach Tom Watts.

Not much change will be seen in the purchasing process for the football team, but other teams and the university will benefit from streamline purchasing and discounts, Watts said.

The football team will debut new Nike uniforms this upcoming season. The Bishops will be showcased in a white jersey with Bishops, in text, across the chest along with matching white pants.

“I think it looks sharp and our guys really liked it when we showed it to them. It’s simple, it looks clean, and it looks like OWU,” Watts said.

A lot of student athletes like the Nike for the branding, Zipp said.

“Nike is good quality,” sophomore football player, Logan Whalen-Hennick said. “I love the new uniforms because they are Nike. They look cleaner, and the team looks crisp and nice.”

Ohio Wesleyan will have everyone in the brand within the next three years, when all teams have had their chance at uniform renewal.

The uniforms will be simplistic, but represent what Ohio Wesleyan stands for, Zipp said.

“We try to say 25 sports, but one team. I think we’ll look more like that with the same kind of simple branding that BSN will provide for everybody,” Watts said.

Mike DeWitt, men’s basketball head coach, selected as interim athletics director

By Sara Hollabaugh, Online Editor

Men’s basketball head coach Mike DeWitt will serve as the interim athletics director.

According to a campus-wide email from Chuck Stinemetz, provost, DeWitt will take over Ingles position in mid-May.

Roger leaves big shoes to fill, but Mike’s stellar career with the Battling Bishops—as a student-athlete, a coach, and a leader in Division III athletics—makes him the ideal person to serve as interim director of athletics,” Stinemetz said.

Stinemetz added DeWitt’s experience at OWU, especially as the winningest men’s basketball coach at OWU will be beneficial to his new post.

Mike has served as an associate athletics director since 2011 and was an assistant athletics director from 2004-11,” Stinemetz said in the email. “Furthermore, he has been a leader at the conference and national levels, serving on the NCAA Division III Great Lakes advisory committee from 2003-06, and he was on the NCAA Division III national committee from 2009-13, serving as committee chair during the 2012-13 season.”

Stinemetz also announced a committee that will search for the new athletics director, which he will chair.

“I will be joined by the following individuals: alumni Christie Allen, Kevin Hinkle, Bob Morrill; head coaches Kris Boey, Kirsta Cobb, Jay Martin, Cassie Cunningham; faculty Barbara MacLeod, David Eastman, Shala Hankison; admissions Ross Grippi; [and from] advancement, Colleen Garland.”

Stinemetz also said two students will join the committee but they have not been selected yet.

DeWitt said he was asked by Stinemetz to be interim director at a meeting after it was made known Ingle’s was leaving.

“I am honored to be asked by our administration to lead our department in this time of transition, and I am extremely fortunate to work with an outstanding group of coaches that will make this transition go as smoothly as possible,” DeWitt said.

DeWitt said he and Ingles will work closely before he leaves.

“Having been a part of the administrative staff over the years certainly will help me be aware of most of these issues as I serve in this role until a new Director of Athletics is hired,” DeWitt said.

DeWitt was not certain of Ingle’s official date of departure and when he will start as interim director.

Athletics Director Roger Ingles to leave OWU for Capital University

Sara Hollabaugh, Online Editor

Athletics Director Roger Ingles is leaving OWU to become director of athletics at Capital University.

On March 23, President Rock Jones sent a campus-wide email stating Ingles is leaving behind his combined 33 years of experience at OWU as a coach and director.

In his email, Jones said Ingles will “oversee 20 men’s and women’s varsity sports.”

According to the Batthing Bishops staff director, Ingles coached baseball for 22 seasons, was assistant athletics director for seven years and associate athletics director for three years before he became the athletics director.

Before becoming interim athletics director, Ingles was associate athletics director for 3 years and assistant athletics director for 7 years.

Jones wrote of Ingles’ success at OWU as both baseball coach and athletics director.

“During his 22 seasons coaching the Bishops, Roger’s teams earned 15 NCAA Division III postseason appearances and eight North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) championships,” Jones said. “Roger’s accomplishments include creating the student scholar-athlete awards banquet, expanding the coaching and athletic training staffs, working to improve gender equity across the athletics spectrum, and helping to improve Ohio Wesleyan’s athletics facilities.”

Jones added Ingles brought OWU two NCAA men’s and women’s track & field national championships and one men’s and women’s cross country national championship.

“Ask Roger what he’s most proud of during his tenure as Athletics Director, and all of his comments have a common theme: Supporting Ohio Wesleyan student-athletes, helping players achieve academic as well as athletic success, and preparing them for happy, healthy, well-balanced lives,” Jones said in his email.

Ingles said, to Jones, joining Capital University’s athletic program will challenge him.

“I have great love for Ohio Wesleyan. I am proud of all that has been accomplished here. Capital is looking to enhance its athletics programs and facilities, and this is just the kind of opportunity and challenge that I like to take on,” Ingles said.

The Transcript is reaching out to Ingles and other members of the athletic department at this time and will update the story when information is available.