Winter Championships cancelled due to low participation

NCAA cancels winter championships this year due to low participation numbers across the country

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The National Collegiate Athletic Association has canceled all Division III championships this winter due to low participation across the country. The news broke on Feb 3 in a press release from the NCAA.

“While some institutions have been able to safely return to sport, the recent declaration form data show that more than half our division has not returned to winter sports practice and competition to be in a position for NCAA national championship participation,” said Fayneese Miller, chair of the Division III President’s Council.

The number of teams required for winter championship participation is 60% for men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s swimming and diving and men’s and women’s track and field, and 70% for men’s and women’s ice hockey and men’s wrestling. None of these sports hit the required number of schools participating, forcing the NCAA to cancel championship competition.

With the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference allowing all University of Wisconsin schools to participate in winter athletics, this news weighed heavily for some student-athletes.

“Last year was our year,” senior Blugold hockey defenseman Austin Redders said. “Going into playoffs, we were hot. But then the pandemic canceled our season. We were all upset at the time, but we understood why the season had to be canceled.”

The Blugold men’s hockey team was just coming off their third regular-season conference title as well as their third post-season conference title. They were ranked No. 4 in the country going into the NCAA playoffs.

“We lost a few guys, but this year we were going to run it back,” Redders said. “We have all of our top guys back, so when we heard we could play, we knew we were going to do something special.”

Redders said that this was his last chance to win a national title since he is graduating this spring. While he is frustrated with the decision, there isn’t anything he can do but play hard for his team.

The men’s hockey team wasn’t the only one affected. A total of 335 Blugold athletes won’t get to compete for their respective NCAA championship this winter.

One of those athletes, Hunter Henk of the track and field team, has a little bit of a different perspective on things.

“Last year was supposed to be my last year,” the fifth-year senior said. “But after our championship was canceled last year as we were at the nationals meet, I wanted to come back and run again with my team.”

Henk was a graduating senior in the business school before he extended his academic career for a semester so he could compete one more season.

“I don’t have any indoor track eligibly left,” the five-time All-American and national champion said. “But I still feel so awful for those who can’t compete at nationals. I’ve been to every national meet since I’ve been in school except for one; those are the meets we live for. Henk still has one more spring season of eligibility left and plans to use it this spring to try and get back to his seventh and final nationals meet.

The NCAA canceled all winter championships last March right as COVID-19 was spreading throughout the country. The Blugolds track and field team, as well as the swim and dive team, were already at their championships, just hours before competition was to start before the NCAA canceled all winter championships.

The Blugolds still get to compete, even though their championship season is cut short. All winter sports are underway as of Feb 1, and the Blugolds picked up right where they left off. With the exception of men’s and women’s track and field, all Blugold winter teams will get to compete for their conference titles.

The men’s basketball team did not travel to the WIAC championships held last week due to COVID-19 protocols. This news broke as the team announced the rest of their scheduled games would be canceled. The men’s basketball team finished their 2021 season with a 2-3 record.