From the sports editor: No timetable right now for college sports’ return

While college football programs, like Wesley College’s, hope to be practicing by August, nobody knows for sure when they’ll be able to start. Delaware State News file photo/Marc Clery

DOVER — They could just talk on an old-fashioned conference call, of course.

But Tracey Short thinks it’s better when the Wesley College athletic department gets together on Zoom.

That way they can see each other, too.

“For the most part, we’re all team players,” said Short, Wesley’s athletic director and field hockey coach. “We’re all people people.

“We could do phone calls all the time. But I think it’s far better for us to actually see one another and have that facialization.”

The fact is, Wesley’s athletic staffers — just like every college athletic department in the country — don’t really know when they’ll see each other in person again.

Outwardly, most schools are heading into the summer with a sense of optimism that things will return to normal in the fall.

At Bluehens.com, for instance, the opening page is an ad for Delaware football season tickets. Theoretically, the Hens open the season on Sept. 5 at James Madison.

But will UD or anybody else be playing any sport in less than four months?

Wolverines’ athletic director and field hockey coach Tracey Short has been at the school for 25 years. Wesley College photo

The coronavirus pandemic has left a good portion of our lives up in the air, of course. And, when you’re talking about a potentionally-deadly virus, most things are more important than sports.

Still, college sports have their place in many of our lives. And there’s countless numbers of young athletes who have worked really hard to compete in them.

So when will college sports resume?

The short answer is, nobody has any idea.

Oh, it’s not for lack of effort that college administrators can’t pinpoint a return date. They’re all meeting regularly — some almost daily from the sound of it — trying to figure out how to keep student-athletes safe while they compete.

“No decisions are being made,” said Short. “I think we’re all kind of waiting a little while just because it is still changing so rapidly — and so much each day. We’re waiting but planning.”

At the highest levels of college football, the futures of entire athletic programs and even the economies of college towns may be riding on it.

In a small state like Delaware, the stakes don’t seem quite that high. But most of the questions are the same everywhere.

The most basic obstacle is that there are 50 states and each one of them seems to have a lightly different take on dealing with the virus. So when you’re talking about a Delaware school’s schedule, you’ve got to factor in their opponents’ status as well.

Take Delaware State for example. The Hornets play in the MEAC, with teams from here to Florida.

Or Delaware, which is in the CAA, and has schools on its schedule from Maine to North Carolina.

Delaware State’s football team plays in the MEAC, which includes schools from here to Florida. Delaware State News file photo

Even a small school like Wesley is in leagues with schools from four states. Each state might have different restrictions.

“I think that’s where it becomes really difficult,” said Short. “You can make a call for one region — and it may be the right one. But it may be the wrong one for a different region.

“I think that’s where there’s going to be a lot of communication between the different states and the different conferences. It’s about understanding what your area is going through.”

This week the NCAA made it fairly clear that it has no plans to get involved with establishing a national return date for the start of fall practices.

“These are localized decisions,” NCAA president Mark Emmert was quoted by ESPN.com. “Local campuses have to decide: Are we opening up, and are we bringing students back to play sports? The NCAA doesn’t mandate that, nor should it. The schools themselves have to make those choices.”

So, for now, college administrators and coaches will continue to meet virtually. They’ll plan what they can and keep running through possible scenarios.

And they’ll hope that, at some point, their path forward will become much more clear than it is now.

The way Short sees it, though, coaches are people that don’t back down from challenges. This is just a really big one.

“We’re just trying to plan for whatever is going to come our way,” she said.

“We’ll figure it out — we always do,” added Short, who has worked at Wesley for 25 years. “You have to be open-minded, you have to be able to adjust and move forward.”

Henderson may be best QB

Our online question about the best quarterback in downstate history drew only a limited response.

But that doesn’t mean that Smyrna High’s Nolan Henderson might not be the best of all-time.

He did lead the Eagles to back-to-back DIAA Division I state titles after all and go 29-6 in his three seasons as a starter.

Certainly nobody in the state threw for more than the 104 career touchdowns and two-year total of 5,321 yards that Henderson put up.

“He’s a legend in that town,” Smyrna coach Mike Judy said about Henderson in 2016. “When we’re all old men, we’re going to be talking about him. People will realize he was one of the guys that made us go on this run that we’re on.”

A title for DSU’s Gray

Former Delaware State basketball star Kendall Gray is going to be one of the speakers for DSU’s virtual graduation ceremony.

The Polytech High grad, who led the Hornets to the MEAC championship game in 2015, finally got to win a title last year playing professionally for a team in Africa.

“The fact that it was in Africa was even more crazy but winning that ‘ship’ with my Petro squad was ‘lit,’” Gray told DSUHornets.com.

“It’s been some time since they won a ‘chip’ and to be a part of that with some talented legends was even more fulfilling.”

Odds & ends

• It’s pretty nice for Delaware’s current quarterbacks when they get to hear from former Blue QBs Scott Brunner, Rich Gannon and Matt Nagy in some of their recent Zoom meetings. That’s a pair of former NFL quarterbacks — one of whom was a league MVP — and a current NFL head coach.

• Caesar Rodney High grad Duron Harmon put out a picture of himself on social media wearing a Detroit Lions’ jersey with the No. 26.

“New team, new city, new opportunities, new challenges and a new number. Ready for it all!” the former New England Patriot posted.