After a tumultuous fall quarter with the potential for fall sport competition to be moved to spring, the Big West Conference announced in December 2020 that all fall sports sponsored by the conference will not compete at all in the 2020-2021 school year.
Cal Poly sports affected by the announcement include Men’s and Women’s Cross Country, Men’s and Women’s Soccer and Women’s Volleyball.
The decision does not affect fall sports unaffiliated with the Big West Conference. Cal Poly Football, which is affiliated with the Big Sky Conference, is still planning on having a season, with their season beginning on March 13.
Here’s what Cal Poly athletes think about the decision.
“This was devastating but I was not surprised. We had hope for a season, but as cases got worse, we knew it was foreshadowing what was gonna happen,” Presley Roldan, runner for the Cross Country and Track teams, said on the news of canceled fall competition.
Roldan and the team said they weren’t too heartbroken about the cancellation, though, with track season on the horizon for the Mustangs.
“Everyone on the Cross Country team competes in track so our coaches told us to take a day and be sad about this, but with the prospect of track season coming up, we knew there was more to come,” Roldan said.
When reflecting on how the Big West Conference made their decision on canceling fall competition, Roldan said she felt conflicted about the circumstances of it all
“I understand the logic of why this stuff has been canceled,” Roldan said. “But, a lot of people feel different about this, it would have been nice to have some sort of outreach to see what players were willing to sacrifice to compete.”
“Everyone was pretty upset with how much in the dark we were,” Roldan said.
When thinking about what she’s going to miss from cross country this year, Roldan said the main thing was the setting of competition.
“Running Cross Country is so different than track, I’m going to miss running in those environments,” Roldan said. “Certain Cross Country meets are just so much fun to travel to.”
On the other hand, Roldan said she is feeling optimistic when looking forward to track season.
“The goal is always to win the Big West. We have pretty solid runners, not too many injuries on this team, and we have some girls capable of going to regionals, even going to nationals,” Roldan said.
“I was really bummed out. Actually, it turned to anger, I was pissed. We give so much, this is our lives, to not have that opportunity is upsetting,” outside hitter and captain Maia Dvoracek said on her reaction to the news.
“We haven’t played in over a year now,” middle blocker and team captain Meredith Phillips said. “We have been putting all of this work in for a spring season and now we’re one of the few conferences not doing stuff in the spring, it is really, really upsetting.”
Both athletes said they were especially upset that the Big West, a conference made up of schools from only California and Hawaii, is one of the few that have canceled fall competition in the spring.
“I’m from Texas. I get to see my friends compete, people I played with getting to play this spring and its frustrating. They get to carry out their dreams and we can’t,” Phillips said.
Another thing the two captains said they share is their desire to have been part of the decision making process for the Big West, feeling disappointed on how the conference ignored the voices of athletes.
“There are so many things we wish we could have an input in,” Dvoracek said. “We are such low-risk individuals, some of the most physically fit people in the country. We just want to play.”
When thinking about their season, the pair said they are going to miss many of the experiences that were canceled by the Big West.
“Walking onto a court wearing that jersey with your friends is such an awesome feeling. Dances in the locker room, having those big wins, seeing Mott Gym packed, it’s all part of the indescribable pride that you have when you work that hard. That’s what drives us, not having any of that is devastating,” Dvoracek said.
Looking forward to next season, or even possibly non-conference competition this spring, the pair said they are eager for what’s to come, especially with both set to return next school year.
“As a team, we are so desperate to play some volleyball, we are just so ready to compete, ready to see the grind payoff, nothing matters but playing right now,” Dvoracek said.
“Everyone who has been a student athlete through this pandemic will do whatever it takes to compete, whatever it takes to win,” Phillips said. “We’re going to do things we haven’t done before.”
Men’s Soccer also fell victim to the fall sport season cancelations. Senior midfielder and team captain Emmanuel Perez was among the many players who expressed concern with their seasons being canceled.
“It wasn’t a crazy shock either just because of the virus and everything going on,” Perez said. “It was definitely disappointing. I was already in my preseason training, six weeks out.”
Perez along with senior defender and co-captain Josh Graham are among several Cal Poly fall sport athletes who have taken to social media, reposting an essay directed at the Big West Conference asking to put on some semblance of a season.
“It’s not unreasonable, we have five spring games set up,” Perez said. “To compete for the Big West Championship, we only need six games. So we’re just asking for one more competitive game in the spring, and then we’d be able to play in the championship.”
Perez has also stated the team is willing to be flexible, and put in effort in order to see their wish to play a season be fulfilled.
“If it takes raising money, we’re willing to do it,” Perez said.“We all train with masks on, it’s very tough to breathe, running and warming up with our masks. But you know, we understand that.”