Weeks before the semester began, Harding announced that Division II sports would be canceled for the fall semester.
While many are feeling the negative effects of canceled athletics, a few leaders on campus are choosing to take the adversity with a grain of salt and use this time to work harder than before.
“It became nearly impossible to try to compete,” Harding athletic director and men’s head basketball coach Jeff Morgan said. “Trying to go down that road with most of the DII conferences across the country . . . the mandates made it nearly impossible to play other people.”
Morgan, who is entering his second year as Harding’s athletic director, shared his plans for what athletics will look like in 2020, even without official games.
“We all have a tremendous desire to compete,” Morgan said. “We are still going to be able to practice, because we’re not playing with outside competition. We’re going to be able to do some things as far as practice and player development, and then getting into our off-season work.”
While Morgan is making plans for the whole university, Harding football coach Paul Simmons is working on a game plan for his team
“You have lots of excuses to be lazy and unaccountable,” Simmons said. “Our guys have had a mature response to that. The level of accountability has been so impressive. Our guys have a great desire to be together; we really just love to be together.”
Even before COVID-19, Simmons said he prioritized teaching his team the importance of community.
“We really plan to double down on the things that matter most to us,” Simmons said. “That is culture. That is building brotherhood. That is deepening the love that our guys have for one another … I plan to come out of this as the deepest, most polished team we’ve ever had. I expect the 2021 Bisons to be a really dominant football team.”
Following Simmons’s philosophy is one of his seniors, wide receiver Michael Cendrick. Like his coach, Cendrick is embracing the things closest to him in this tough time.
“God has already been teaching me so much about how foolish it is to try and plan out your future,” Cendrick said. “The quarantine has made me stop and smell the roses a bit; it’s made me just enjoy the day and the moment that I’m in.”
Despite the obstacles, Cendrick said he remains hopeful to reach the 2021 Conference Champions.
“I think we’re hungrier than ever,” Cendrick said. “The coaches are preparing us to be in elite condition next fall … I think we’ll look back in a year and be amazed at how much better we have all gotten.”