Dayton’s Rick Chamberlin on possibility of spring football: ‘It would be tough'

Credit: David Jablonski

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Who is Rick Chamberlin?

Credit: David Jablonski

Pioneer Football League latest FCS conference to cancel fall football

In August 1945, days after the end of World War II, Harry Baujan told the Dayton Herald the earliest sports could return to the University of Dayton was January 1946 with basketball in the winter and then baseball and track in the spring.

“If necessary, I’ll coach them all myself just to get things going again,” Baujan said.

Baujan did not have to do that. James Carter coached the basketball team in 1945-46. Baseball didn’t return until 1947. Baujan’s football team returned to competition in 1946 — it would be the last of 21 seasons for the Hall of Fame coach, who lost three seasons to the war — and the university has played football in every fall since.

That streak ends in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Pioneer Football League, which had already cancelled all its non-conference games, pulled the plug on conference play Friday.

One of the big reasons the league decided to cancel the season was the travel difficulties it faced. The PFL has teams in Ohio (Dayton), North Carolina (Davidson), Kentucky (Morehead State), Indiana (Butler and Valparaiso), California (San Diego), New York (Marist), Iowa (Drake) and Florida (Stetson).

“The Presidents and athletic directors of our respective universities made this very difficult decision after extensive deliberations and consideration of many factors,” said James M. Danko, president of Butler University and chair of the PFL, in a statement. “We recognize that our student-athletes will be disappointed, but our highest priority is the health and safety of all those involved in our athletic programs. Ultimately, the risks of proceeding are simply too high especially to ensure the safety of our students.”

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The decision was no surprise for Dayton coach Rick Chamberlin. Everyone saw this decision coming as many other Football Championship Subdivision conferences made the same announcement in recent days.

“It’s the right decision,” Chamberlin said. “We hate it, but we understand it. Our presidents and athletic directors didn’t take this decision lightly. They wanted to make sure they covered all the bases to see if there was any way possible to play. It just didn’t add up, especially with our conference and the travel.”

Chamberlin’s players begin arriving on campus Saturday and will arrive in waves with some getting to Dayton on Sunday and some on Monday. UD wants to give the players some sort of football experience this fall, but that will depend on what the NCAA allows it to do and what is medically safe to do during the pandemic. Chamberlin said he will look at it as a modified spring practice season.

The big question now is: Will the conference try to play in the spring?

Dayton Athletic Director Neil Sullivan has spoken to the football team several times this summer, Chamberlin said, and told them spring football was a possible option. It might not be something every player wants.

Running back Jake Chisolm spoke up in one meeting, Chamberlin said, and said he will be studying for the MCAT (medical college admission test) in the spring. He didn’t know whether he wanted to be playing games while getting ready for such an important test.

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The big issue would be playing a season in the spring of 2021 and playing another season in the fall.

“I think it would be tough,” Chamberlin said. “I really do. That was one of the points the players brought up. You finish in mid-May, let’s say, and then you turn around and one month later you’ve got to train for the next one.”

The PFL joined a growing list of FCS conferences that have cancelled the fall season. The Ivy League, Colonial Athletic Association, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, Northeast Conference and Patriot League had already made announcements.

The Big Sky and Southwestern Athletic Conference moved football season to the spring.

“We already have begun actively engaging our fellow FCS conferences and the NCAA to join us then for what will be a unique opportunity to return to competition and compete for an FCS championship,” Big Sky Commissioner Tom Wistrcill said in a statemet.

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