Pacific University falls consist of a packed Hansen Stadium with screaming fans watching the Boxer football team. Or a full gym tightly squeezed together to watch the thwack of a volleyball and shout with every spike and storming the gym for the opening of both basketball seasons.
This fall, you are lucky to hear shoes squeak as you pass the gym in what feels like an abandoned Stoller Center. You might see a friend or a coach as you pass through, but you won’t see their smiles. Outside, Hansen Stadium sits empty on weekends. The home to football and both soccer teams in the fall has no goals, no touchdowns, and no celebrations.
The fall season is a chance for athletes to embrace everything they have been dreaming about over the summer. All the hard work in the off-season being put to the test in games and matches. The blood, the sweat, and the tears would all be worth it to touch that field, that court, on gameday.
This fall was different. There were no games . There were barely any practices. COVID-19 destroyed the optimism of fall athletes one restriction at a time.
In late August the fall season was officially canceled, and Pacific had placed restrictions upon the athletic facilities. For a time, athletes were only allowed to workout in the Fieldhouse while other students were designated to the fitness center. Before you enter the fitness center or fieldhouse, there is a mandatory temperature check. All athletes have to wipe down whatever they used to workout once they are done. Athletes and faculty were forced to wear masks at all times, while designated walkways directed you as soon as you stepped foot into Stoller Center. Hand sanitizer stations were scattered across the building. It feels weird. It is weird.
Luckily for Pacific athletes, Athletic Director Keith Buckley, and Associate Athletic Director Lauren Brownrigg, worked hard to put players back out on the field in the safest way possible.
Through several meetings with coaches and players, most teams were back on the field or court by late September. Masks required. Mandatory social distancing. Teams only allowed to be in groups of ten.
There is no other way to explain the fall season. Things felt more normal as teams got used to the new normal for the fall, but it was always uncomfortable. Uncomfortable to play with a mask and uncomfortable to understand that this may be what the spring season looks like.
The emptiness of the fall, will mean chaos in the spring. As of now, all sports are planning to play in the spring. No schedules have been released and no formal restrictions have been discussed with athletes. What is happening in the spring is a mystery, but a mystery that very well could involve seasons for Pacific athletics, and that is all that matters. — Joey Balleweg