'I didn't believe it,' Franklin College senior says about cancelled last games

By Britany App

Britany.App@franklincollege.edu

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many collegiate athletes around the country have had their seasons cut short.

The shutdowns were no less forgiving to senior spring athletes at Franklin College, whose last seasons ended before they even began.

The initial reactions for many of these athletes were that of shock and disbelief.

“I didn’t believe it,” said Jackson Williams, senior golfer. Williams had a very successful career at Franklin College, holding the single season scoring record at 73.9 in 2019-20 and ranking third all-time in career scoring average at 75.8.

“I never thought this COVID-19 situation would end my college baseball career,” said Quenton Wellington, senior short stop. Wellington was a member of the 2019 NCAA All-Regional Team for Franklin College.

In an email sent to all students and faculty at Franklin College on March 19, President Kerry Prather responded to the collective shock.

“My heart goes out to our student-athletes, especially our graduating seniors,” Prather said. Of course, the health and safety of those same individuals is the focus of this decision, as it should be, and those concerns must take precedence.”

In response to these unprecedented events in the collegiate sports world, the NCAA is allowing an extra year of eligibility for athletes who have lost their season.

But some athletes said they question how beneficial that extra year is going to be.

All Division III athletes must be taking at least 12 credit hours per semester to be eligible to compete. This means that most seniors, who have already completed the classes they need to graduate, will have to take at least three or four more classes next spring to use that extra season of eligibility.

This means paying more money in tuition, room and board if they don’t live close enough to campus to commute. It could also mean putting their careers on hold for another year and spending more money on athletic gear or fees they may need to pay for during their season.

“If tuition was not an issue, and seniors were granted eligibility as long as they could find their own transportation back to campus to play, I would 100% come back to play,” said Josh Stewart, a senior tennis player.

Stewart was named Honorable Mention All-HCAC in 2019 and is a two-time recipient of the HCAC's Chris Ragsdale Sportsmanship Award.

Many Franklin College senior athletes said they have accepted a hard truth: That this is the end of their collegiate athletic careers.

 “I will not be returning next spring,” said Brandt Pawley, senior second baseman on the college baseball team. “If I could come back and play without paying a dime, I’d consider it. At the same time, that’s another year where I’m not in the workplace furthering my career, and it’s time for me to do that.”

Pawley has been a big player for the Grizzlies since his freshman year and the decision to start his career beginning as an entry level sales associate for Fierce Management Group in Indianapolis rather than returning next season was not an easy one.

Even though COVID-19 led to the unexpected end of many spring sports seasons, the senior athletes said they are walking away with valuable memories.

“One of my favorite memories from playing at FC was winning the conference tournament my sophomore year,” said Danielle Wyse, senior softball pitcher.

The Franklin College softball team won against the Kalamazoo College Hornets before the rest of the season was cancelled. The Hornets were their first and last opponents of the season on the Grizzlies’ home field bringing their season record to 6-4.

The Franklin College baseball team had a very successful 2019 season becoming conference champs and making it to regional championship game.

This year’s seniors will not have the chance to repeat last season’s success, but said they hold on to the memories they made during that time to keep going through an unprecedented time.

“Last season, we got chosen to go to the regional in Seguin, Texas,” Pawley said. “That whole trip, on and off the field, was an experience I’ll never forget.”

The future still remains unclear for college athletes. Currently, there are no plans to cancel fall athletic competitions or to continue distance learning at the college, but studies show that the virus could continue spreading into that time.

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