Southwestern Community College announced this week it was cancelling the 2018 spring softball season, leaving members of the team in shock.
The players were told there would be no season Tuesday morning before they were set to practice, and a press release detailing the decision was sent out by the college Wednesday morning.
Iowa Community College Athletic Conference Commissioner Thom McDonald told the News Advertiser there had been an open dialogue between SWCC and the ICCAC for the past three weeks.
“We moved forward throughout the discussions as if they were getting ready to play," McDonald said.
A deadline was made to make the decision, and the SWCC administration made the choice to cancel the spring season, as Athletic Director Todd Lorensen noted he believed the decision was best for all involved.
The squad of 11 players was brought into a meeting, where they were informed the 2018 spring season would not take place.
Roster numbers have gone down the past two years since the departure of former coach Lindsay Stumpff.
Coach Paige Cassady resigned after one season at the helm of the Spartans last spring, and current coach Marty Maynes was hired in the middle of last July.
The Spartans got in the gym from time to time in the fall and had been getting in consistent pitching and catching practice in the gym since the start of the spring semester. The team played two games in the fall.
Two players transferred to SWCC this semester to play softball, one of those being Makinna Fitzgerald, a Lenox native, who came back home from Northwest Missouri State.
Klarissa McElroy transferred in from Kansas City Community College.
Lorensen confirmed that all scholarships awarded to players will be honored.
“This is not great for your student athletes in any capacity," Lorensen said. "It’s not what you want for potential student athletes in any sport."
He confirmed it was a frustrating and sad moment for the players, many of whom were shocked with the decision.
“We got to the final process of needing to make this difficult decision. We factored in all the information we had, the fact that it has kind of been a continuing … dip in roster numbers over the last couple of years and we felt it was in the best interest of our student athletes to take a step backwards, regroup as an institution and as a program and find a way to make a plan moving forward and having a healthy number moving forward.”
Lorensen also noted the decision can preserve the eligibility of players who might play as little as one inning or one pitch.
SWCC sophomore Tiffany Barr shared this statement with the News Advertiser:
"I am one of the only sophomores on the SWCC softball team. Many of the players are at SWCC strictly for softball. We have one player from Illinois and two players that had just transferred in at semester strictly for softball. We as a team feel that it is not fair that this is happening. The administration waited until the last minute to inform us what was going on when this should have been brought to attention before the semester even started. We feel that there is more to this issue then just the number of players that we have. We are all honestly heart broken and upset because taking a year off is not going to make any of us better softball players. None of this is coach's fault. He did his job. He did not get the job until late July so he did not have much time to recruit. Myself and Fallyn Beemer are the only ones that are returning from last year. Pretty much everyone else on the team besides a couple were brought to SWCC by coach. Coach did his job, yes he was a friend and a mentor but he also disciplined us when it was needed. No person's actions can be brought back on coach because honestly coach has done so much and more for our team."
Several players, Barr included, voiced their opinions that Maynes should not be receiving blame for the lost season.
McDonald noted that in the past, teams have had to cancel seasons in the midst of a campaign, and in doing so, put conference teams in a bad spot with games to fill and an inability to account for disparities in conference cmpetition.
Lorensen and McDonald both felt the proactive decision was the best option.
Lorensen said the team did find out before others at the college, the media and more found out.
"It would have been easy in my decision to not make a proactive decision," Lorensen said about letting the season go on with the decent potential of players getting hurt and then being unable to field a team.
Barr noted she intends to help the players on the team to keep working with one another to improve their games without the spring season.
Coach Marty Maynes could not be reached for comment.
*Correction: Lindsay Stumpff was not the CCHS softball coach this past summer. Stumpff's former assistant at SWCC, Amber Brown, served in that duty.