The 2020-21 season will continue without the state of Chicago.
The school announced on Wednesday that it was suspending all men’s basketball activities, effectively ruining the rest of the season on the team. CSU Athletics Director Elliot Charles explained the decision in a statement.
“It was a difficult decision, but necessary to prioritize the health, wellness, and academic success of student athletes,” said Elliott Charles, director of athletics at Chicago State University.
The statement also said the decision will not affect any other athletic program at the school, whose seasons will continue as scheduled. Frequently asked questions provided by CSU were extended to the decision, citing the availability of student athletes due to injuries as a factor considered. It also made it clear that the decision would not affect scholarships. At 0-9, the Cougars are the first team to end the season without a win since Grambol State went 0-28 in 2012-13.
There are currently no official indications as to how this will affect scheduling or results in the WAC. The Cougars were scheduled to open their conference season at UT Rio Grande Valley on January 8th.
Although seemingly unprecedented, the move probably shouldn’t come as a complete surprise.
The Cougars are just days away from facing Drake with only seven players available, and on December 22 they had to cancel a game in the state of Iowa due to “insufficient numbers of players”. In addition, the team was without head coach Lance Irvin – a cancer survivor – who ruled out the season for health reasons. In the meantime, they were led by Assistant Rodell Davis, who was the only coach on hand for a team game Dec. 9 at Loyola Chicago with an assistant who is “prone to his family,” according to Jeff Goodman.
Senior keeper Xavier Johnson appeared on Twitter to hint that the male basketball players were not involved in the decision.
Every decision made in this school seems to affect us, but it never involves us
– Xavier Johnson (@XTheCeo) December 23, 2020
Johnson may be alluding in part to the last time the Cougars made national waves, as the first team to cancel games due to the then pandemic, cancellation of travel to Seattle in early March. That decision applied to the athletics department, and some players at the time went out and said they had not been consulted before their programs were put on hold.
On the ground, things went as expected for a program that has struggled in recent years. The Cougars were 0-9 and often blew them out, losing each by less than 10 points. Although their most recent – and, as it turned out, final – game was a one-sided defeat to the incandescent Drake, the Cougars played their most competitive game of the season on Dec. 18, pushing Northern Illinois early in the second half before finally falling for 10.
So what’s next on the south side?
Johnson – team’s top scorer – he seemed to show that he was open to transfer through retweet. In general, the school was probably easier to bring up given the NCAA’s decision to grant all scholarship athletes an additional year of qualification due to the pandemic. This was confirmed in the frequently asked questions, which also seemed to address the sustainability issues of the Division I program:
“… Chicago State University is committed to continuously improving the men’s basketball program as a key priority in developing our overall strategy to maintain NCAA Division I competitive sports programs.”
In that sense, the decision comes at a particularly interesting time in the WAC. The league appears to be adding a quintet of schools in the coming years, which includes Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston State, Abilene Christian, Lamar and Southern Utah. A large number of potential newcomers seem to suggest that the conference expects to go elsewhere, although an inflated league would be nothing new in today’s environment.
There is no reason to doubt that the CSU will try to leave the WAC, although it seems closer to creating a real hub in the southwest and west coast. Kansas City, however, returned to the summit this year in part because of problems he had to travel to in the country’s most geographically diverse league.
In addition, there is no reported reason why the CSU would seek to leave Division I all together. It would not be responsible to speculate on this, although it is difficult to ignore the budgetary issues that the school and its athletic program have been facing in recent years.
The program gained energy when Irvin – an icon of basketball in Chicago – took office ahead of the 2018-19 season. Shortly before his debut season, he talked to us about why he thinks CSU has potential and what his first steps will be.
“I’m working on the phones, I’m just calling – I need help. The state of Chicago is on the right track; it has always been a good academic institution. “If you ask people about the perception of the state of Chicago, we have a great educational program, a great pharmaceutical school,” he said. “I have this kind of conversation with people all over the country, from California to Canada. It’s going in a good direction, we just have to keep moving and find the right form. It’s a process and it can take a while since we grow, and it’s still a learning curve. I hope the connections pay off. ”
Irvin and his staff may have a chance to pull the Cougars out of the tough series, but they won’t be out this season.