While local high schools celebrate the return of on-campus athletics because of the rapid drop in COVID-19 cases, Long Beach City College and other local junior colleges are commiserating another loss.
The presidents of the South Coast Conference Colleges unanimously decided on Thursday to suspend athletic competition for traditional spring sports in 2021. That means the Vikings won’t have baseball, softball, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, women’s tennis, women’s badminton, women’s beach volleyball and men’s and women’s track and field this year.
The official statement from the SCC says, “While the conference decision affects SCC colleges only, any individual college can choose to play a non-conference schedule based on that college’s ability to follow local COVID-19 protocols and guidelines to protect the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches, and staff.”
In December, the SCC had already canceled any possible 2021 fall sports activity during the spring. This week, LBCC Athletics Director Bill Husak delivered the bad news to his coaches and staff via email, but finished off the message with good news.
“Back in the Fall, when the President and cabinet decided not to opt in for spring season one, that decision was made early,” he said. “There was really no discussion or thought about opting in at some point in the future. It was done. Today, this decision was made at the 11th hour, when it should’ve been made. And the president has told me they’ll continue to monitor the situation, and if warranted, we’ll try to get back to in-person instruction for our athletics classes. That is good news. That wasn’t the case four months ago. I commend the cabinet and the president for having an open mind.”
LBCC baseball coach Casey Crook isn’t surprised by the SCC news, and so neither are his student-athletes.
“To tell you the truth, I started telling my guys in November that if you want to make sure you can play you better transfer out of state or to an Orange County school because you’ll have a lot better chance of playing there,” Crook said.
The players who haven’t left yet are now stuck in an awkward position. For example, former Lakewood High pitcher Mitchell Knight was improving at LBCC and getting on to the NCAA scouts radar last year when the season was shut down. Now, he’s struggling to find competitive innings to prove his worth. His mother, Vicki Knight, said his future is unclear.
“My son is heartbroken and he just did his job and pitched well, had good grades and took classes to be ready to get to the next level,” Knight said. “Now, we are kind of at a loss. These boys need to play. Psychically and emotionally it’s taken its toll.”
Wilson high alum and LBCC outfielder Ryan Guerero is in a similar situation with limited options. He said he plans to finish the semester at LBCC and then transfer to a four-year university.
“But it will be tough now with two seasons being cancelled,” Guerero said. “I won’t go back to LBCC next year so I just have to hope that I can get recruited or I will just have to give up baseball and focus on my life after it.”
LBCC football coach Brett Peabody said he knows all of the Vikings are falling behind by not working out together on campus.
“I’m okay with not having practice right now,” Peabody said. “I want to get my group back conditioning and build towards practice so it’s safe to practice because my guys haven’t done anything in a year.”
Husak added that LBCC is already considering bringing back the athletics classes to meet for in-person lessons.
“It’s all a function of monitoring what the situation is,” Husak said. “These numbers are declining drastically. I can see us being out of the purple (tier) pretty soon. We just have to keep our fingers crossed.”
Husak, Crook and Peabody all said LBCC has already lost student-athletes to transfer and unforeseen situations because of the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of activity on the LBCC campus.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles County high schools and universities have been conditioning on campus for months. Some football and baseball teams have also played seasons.
“The most marginalized athletes in the country right now are California junior college athletes,” Crook said.