by Dominic Flocco ’22

Fans support Davidson Baseball at Wilson Field this spring. Photo by John Crawford ’20

On March 10th, Davidson Baseball took on No. 10 Duke at BB&T Ballpark. Down by one in the bottom of the ninth, the Wildcats found themselves a swing away from an incredible upset. Senior first baseman Brett Centracchio stepped up to the plate and delivered a two-run walk-off homerun into the right field seats. The Wildcats, off to their best start in program history (13-3), stormed Centracchio at the plate to celebrate their first win against a ranked opponent in two years. This would be Centracchio’s last at-bat in a Davidson uniform.

When the NCAA decided to cancel the collegiate spring sports season, no one was surprised. The global pandemic had already begun to turn the world upside down; schools closed, supermarkets emptied, and hospitals scrambled for solutions. Yet the decision still devastated  athletes across the country, suddenly halting their lives and athletic careers

Just ask senior tennis player Tommy Mason, who heard the news after the men’s squad took down A10 rival St. Josephs. “We had the highs of beating a tough A10 team to the lows of ending our season all on the same day,” he says. “It was really tough emotionally for everything to end so suddenly. After a single text from our coach saying everything was canceled, it was all just over.” As news of school closing for the semester rapidly spread across campus, the entire Davidson Athletics community confronted a whole other dimension of this new reality. 

Now that the dust has settled, what’s next for Davidson athletes? Shortly after the NCAA canceled the season, the Division I Council voted to grant all spring athletes an extra year of eligibility. For many student athletes across the country with hopes of competing professionally, using their fifth year of eligibility is a no brainer. But how do Davidson athletes feel about it? 

To start, the majority of senior student-athletes at Davidson have already made post-grad plans. Whether it’s entering the workforce, attending graduate school or taking a gap year, for most athletes at Davidson, their athletic career ends at commencement. Additionally, Davidson doesn’t have a graduate school option, separating itself from many of its opponents on the NCAA stage. One option for Davidson athletes who wish to continue their athletic careers is to begin graduate school at a different university and utilize their fifth year of eligibility there. For some, this fits their future plans perfectly, but for the majority, the cons outweigh the pros. 

Mason, who plans on attending medical school after graduation, doesn’t think transfering is worth it. “I cannot imagine playing for a different school with a different group of players […] I would love to continue playing tennis, I just couldn’t do it for another school,” he says. “People at schools with graduate programs have a very different mindset than ones without. They can stay at the same school, play with the same people and coaches, and start their masters programs.” 

 Coaches see the benefits of graduate athletics  as well, noting that many athletic programs have a different mindset. “The fact that Davidson does not have a graduate school hurts those that want to stay a 5th year,” says Head Women’s Lacrosse Coach Kim Wayne. “Other schools will try to retain their seniors which is an added benefit for those programs that have a graduate program.”

With the uncertainty and difficult decisions to make, the Davidson athletic community remains strong and has come together in support of all their athletes, fans, and coaches. Kim Wayne, in her 12th year as Head Coach, remarks, “I have a lot more to think about right now.  How will my players feel when they return? How are their families coping and how have they been affected? My job has shifted in regards to caring for my players in a more emotional way while also working towards next season.” Coaches and administrators across Davidson Athletics have shifted gears to providing the necessary support for their players and their families. 

“We feel for our scholar-athletes, coaches and administrators who invest so much into the athletic experience, especially those spring sport seniors for whom this could be the end of their careers,” says Director of Athletics Chris Clunie. “This pandemic provides perspective, in that we understand there are bigger and more important things at play right now. But, Davidson Athletics is built on community and we are definitely missing each other right.”