Even in the best case scenario, the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to have lengthy consequences for the East Central College sports program.
The most immediate impact is for the softball team. East Central was 3-7 for the season and on a three-game winning streak when NJCAA halted the basketball and spring sports seasons.
“In light of the progressive evolvement of the COVID-19 situation, the NJCAA has decided to end all competition for the remainder of the academic year,” stated Dr. Christopher Parker, NJCAA president and CEO. “As an association, the NJCAA exhausted all possible avenues to potentially postpone competition for both upcoming basketball championships and spring sport competition. We believe following the recommendations of the CDC is in the best interest of our member colleges and our student-athletes.”
NJCAA also announced spring sports athletes will not be charged a year of eligibility, meaning all could come back next season. That does have some impact with East Central.
“We will have some discussions this week,” East Central Athletic Director Jay Mehrhoff said. “One item for sure is the spring sports athletes will retain a year of eligibility at the NJCAA level and for their transfer institutions at the NAIA and NCAA levels. So, sophomores can stay another year if they choose or have three years at a four-year school.”
Mehrhoff said many of the sophomores won’t be able to meet requirements to stay at East Central.
“Our problem is the fact that many of our sophomore student athletes have great grades and enough credit hours to graduate so we will lose more than other junior colleges,” Mehrhoff said.
Another big issue is recruiting. NJCAA is stopping all recruiting, both on-campus and off-campus, until April 15. That will be evaluated and adjusted as needed.
The school recently added women’s soccer for the upcoming fall semester and hired Martin Clayes to be the head coach for both the men’s and women’s teams. While the men’s team has returning players, the women’s team is starting from scratch.
Additionally, the volleyball team of Head Coach Lisa Mathes-Peters is in the midst of its recruiting as well.
“We are in a tough spot, more so than the four-year schools with recruiting,” Mehrhoff said. “Only having two classes of recruits, with only one returning class, makes it difficult on us. A four-year school can get through a small recruiting class size, which is not the case with junior colleges.”
Mehrhoff said the department will evaluate how it will proceed.
“We will examine all aspects for the future moving forward,” Mehrhoff said. “We should be fine in some sports. Others may have a tough time with fielding full rosters for next year.”