Archdeacon: Sinclair coach on loss of sports — ‘Hopefully this isn’t a death sentence’

Sinclair baseball coach Steve Dintaman watches his team from the dugout during their game against Miami Hamilton Thursday, April 23, 2015, at Foundation Field in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Sinclair baseball coach Steve Dintaman watches his team from the dugout during their game against Miami Hamilton Thursday, April 23, 2015, at Foundation Field in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

In a decision its coaches and athletes said came “out of the blue,” Sinclair Community College announced on Monday it was suspending all intercollegiate athletics for the 2020-21 academic year.

School officials blamed the move on the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After much consideration we see very little possibility within the next year for our athletic teams to practice, play and travel together without violating the social distancing measures,” President Dr. Steve Johnson said in a press release.

While this decision will hurt the school more than some people realize – Sinclair has no better ambassadors than its five athletics teams – I agree with Johnson on one point.

Its teams – especially baseball and men’s basketball – were no good at social distancing.

They never took a step back from anything. They rolled up their sleeves and dove right in to every aspect of being a student-athlete.

Let’s take baseball for instance.

•On the field, the Tartan Pride always were big winners. Head coach Steve Dintaman, who’s in his 13th season at the school, has a 510-168 record and his teams had won nine conference titles in the past 11 years.

After a 9-5 start this season, Sinclair’s baseball was cut short by pandemic concerns on March 14 with 38 regular season games left.

•In the classroom Sinclair has been recognized as an Academic All-America team five years in a row and currently has an impressive 3.4 team g.p.a.

•As for the community, that’s where there was absolutely no social distancing.

Each year the baseball players take part in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night walk and a few others community charity concerns. Some years they’re part of the Martin Luther King Day march, as well.

They are regular donors at the community blood bank and this year began a program — Reading With the Tartans — where players went into elementary school classrooms across the Greater Dayton area and read with students to show them how important reading could be in their lives.

Sinclair Community College baseball coach Steve Dintaman (left) and pitcher Alex Kimsey (right) along with other members of the team, took part in the 25th Annual MLK Memorial March held in Dayton. CONTRIBUTED
Sinclair Community College baseball coach Steve Dintaman (left) and pitcher Alex Kimsey (right) along with other members of the team, took part in the 25th Annual MLK Memorial March held in Dayton. CONTRIBUTED

All this involvement paid off.

•Dintaman said over 200 of his players have gone on to play at four-year colleges. Last year’s team sent players to Texas Tech, Wright State, Miami, Western Kentucky, Morehead State, New Mexico, Youngstown State and the University of Indianapolis.

And several Pride players are now playing pro ball.

The past four years 100 percent of the baseball team’s sophomores graduated.

“We’re really proud that we’ve been able to build one of the best programs in the country,” Dintaman said. “That’s why this hurts so much.”

Assistant coach Tom Bell, who has been part of the program for 17 years, agreed, although he was a little more pointed in his thoughts:

“We were doing things the right way. I’m truly disappointed. I truly am.

“And yes, first and foremost is the safety of everybody involved. But to make this decision so prematurely is ridiculous. No one knows for sure what’s going to happen a few months from now.”

Sinclair’s move – while sobering – isn’t unprecedented.

Urbana University announced recently it was shutting the entire school down because of COVID-19 and the further financial burden it put the school under. All those athletes — as a NCAA Division II school, Urbana offered 17 sports — were suddenly out in the cold, as well.

Other schools have ended certain sports programs. Cincinnati just disbanded its men’s soccer team. Temple University cancelled seven sports.

While Sinclair stressed in its press release that it would continue to give its student athletes free tuition and regular fees and would honor the educational promises made to current high school athletes who had committed to the school for the coming year, the bottom line is that none of the athletes would be able to play sports at the college.

Dintaman admitted a lot of the athletes “are devastated.”

And almost all “want to leave,” said Bell:

“I saw on Twitter last night, all the guys are trying to leave. They want out. They’re looking for other schools. They want to play baseball.”

For them, it’s a way not only to further their baseball dreams, but get themselves into a four-year school. Sitting out a year of baseball makes that prospect far tougher.

But with the school’s decision coming this late in the year — and with the NCAA’s plan to allow spring sports seniors to return to their schools next year — rosters everywhere are full.

Then there are the cutbacks that have come with the pandemic.

“The kids are in a terrible position,” Bell said. “Their lives have been turned upside down.”

As for high school students who had committed to Sinclair a year ago, many felt they’d be able to ease the hurt of having their graduation ceremonies cancelled this spring because they knew they soon were headed to a college baseball program.

Now, they suddenly must begin the recruitment process all over.

Dintaman said he is going to put all his efforts into helping his current players and the high school recruits find other schools if they no longer want to stay at Sinclair.

He and Jeff Price, the men’s basketball coach and athletics director who couldn’t be reached Tuesday, have both been assured jobs at Sinclair, even though the sports program has been mothballed. Dintaman already worked in enrollment.

Trendale Perkins is the women’s basketball coach. And Steve Beachler – who took his team to the Junior College World Series last season – is the softball coach.

Just over two weeks ago Sinclair hired Carol Bysak – formerly the Beavercreek High boys’ volleyball coach – to run its women’s volleyball program.

Dintaman understands the uncertainty of the times:

“We don’t know across the country what’s going to happen. We weren’t the first and probably won’t be the last school where something like this happens. But it doesn’t make it any less sad for anybody.

“In the meantime I just want to help others here in whatever capacity I’m in.

“I know with all the information they had, they felt it was too risky to have sports right now. But they’ve left this open-ended, so hopefully this isn’t a death sentence.

“Hopefully when this is all said and done, we’ll be able to continue doing what we did.

“We were good ambassadors for the school, for the while community. We want to be that again.”