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No Shepherd football this fall

By Staff | Jul 24, 2020

The 2019-2020 Rams football team prepare for last year's season in this file photo from July 2019. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — And then there were none.

There may be candelabras placed on tablecloths at some college football tailgate parties. Grills will send aloft the sweet smells of sausages, burgers and sauce-slathered chicken somewhere in the land. Marching bands will hustle into their formations on October afternoons. The leaves on maple trees will be orange and red and muted yellow on a campus tucked alongside a river in some small football-playing town.

But not in historic Shepherdstown.

There will be no football games for the Shepherd Rams. Neither at home, nor away at any of the PSAC outposts.

The Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference has mandated that no athletic events will be held until at least Jan. 1, 2021. The spring semester in 2021 could possibly see football return to campus.

The football season could be moved to the spring . . . if. That “if” is contingent upon the progress made against the coronavirus up to that point.

Shepherd University had an 11-game schedule in place, with the first game to be held on Sept. 3 at Ohio Dominican. Earlier this summer, that schedule was trimmed to only nine games when the Ohio Dominican non-conference game was deleted and at the same time a PSAC game with Indiana was similarly deleted.

A nine-game slate still remained. All nine games were to be against PSAC opponents.

But just last week the PSAC cancelled its fall sports.

“The entire conference has worked hard these last few months to prepare for the return of sports to our campuses beginning this fall,” said PSAC Commissioner Steve Murray. “However, it has become apparent that the safe conduct of sports under the guidelines of social distancing is untenable for our members. We cannot place our student-athletes at greater risk than the general student body. Despite our planning and collective efforts, it has become clear that we are not able to do so.”

The PSAC edict will disturb any sport slated to begin during the fall semester and conclude in the early months of 2021. Men’s and women’s basketball, which generally begin their seasons about Nov. 10, will not be able to play any games until the calendar turns to 2021.

Professional sports, which had Major League Baseball return to a much-modified 60-game schedule just yesterday, will be watched carefully, as will the return of the NBA and NFL. Any success by those leagues will be placed under microscopes and thoroughly analyzed to see if their procedures could be replicated by college administrators and coaches.

But for now the tailgates and candelabras won’t be seen in Bloomsburg, West Chester, Clarion or Shepherdstown.