Dayton Flyers first PFL team to decide not to play in spring

The Dayton Flyers football team practices in the fall of 2020. UD photo
The Dayton Flyers football team practices in the fall of 2020. UD photo

Program turns its attention to preparing for fall football season

The phrase “opt out” has been heard again and again during the coronavirus pandemic. The Dayton Flyers football program used it Wednesday when it announced it will not play a spring season in the Pioneer Football League — though there’s no guarantee that spring season will take place at all.

Dayton became the first PFL team to make that decision.

“It’s tough to be alone sometimes,” Dayton Athletic Director Neil Sullivan said Thursday. “We really went through an exhaustive process to understand what would go into this. There was no single unilateral reason. It was what we refer to as the totality of the circumstances.”

The amount of COVID-19 testing that would have been required for a group of 130 people — players, coaches, trainers and other staff members — throughout a season combined with the uncertainty about the physical readiness of the players helped convince Dayton it shouldn’t compete.

“We love and care for the players in all our programs,” Sullivan said. “They come here to compete and play, and anytime we’re not able to provide that, it’s disappointing for them and everyone affiliated with it.”

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Dayton plans to hold a traditional spring practice season and return to competition in the fall. The decision to not play football in the spring does not mean UD will not compete in other spring sports, such as baseball and softball.

“Each one of the sports is in its own unique position,” Sullivan said.

The PFL cancelled the fall season in August and announced in November it would try to play in the spring.

Dayton completed a fall practice season in November. At that time, coach Rick Chamberlin said the team would have to walk a narrow path to pull of a season in the spring, including undergoing approximately 450 COVID-19 tests per week. Practice would have began in February. Instead, he informed the players Wednesday of the decision not to play in the spring.

“They’re competitive,” Chamberlin said. “They were disappointed. They want to play at any opportunity. They just want to play. I thought our administration kept our players informed on how things were progressing from the moment the PFL started talking about playing in the spring.”

Chamberlin said he didn’t know of any other PFL teams that were opting out. He said UD informed the league of its decision Tuesday, one day after the league held a virtual meeting with all the member schools. The league gave programs the opportunity to opt out when it made its last announcement about a possible spring season.

“We felt we had all the info we needed to make our decision,” Chamberlin said, “and to be fair to the PFL, we felt we needed to let them know so they can make plans.”

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