Dear Roadrunner Family,
I had never experienced a day like Wednesday, March 12 in my professional career, and I hope I never have to again.
Conversations with our executive staff, Western Athletic Conference administrators and public health experts had begun days earlier, but nothing could prepare us for the decisions we were about to make due to the risk stemming from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Just forty-five minutes ahead of our women’s WAC quarterfinal with Grand Canyon the decision was made to postpone the game to the following morning. I got no sleep that night as I continued to monitor the situation and remained in touch with both the conference office and our executive leadership staff.
In the end it was clear that there was only one decision to be made. For the best interest of our student-athletes, coaches, athletics staff and fans, we needed to cancel the tournament and suspend competition.
It was not a decision we wanted to make and it was not a decision we made lightly but, when we left the room that morning, everyone knew we had made the right choice.
That certainly didn’t make it any easier. My heart broke for all of our Roadrunner student-athletes. In that moment I was especially concerned for our men’s and women’s basketball teams, which had come to Las Vegas with the goals of winning a title and advancing to the NCAA Tournament.
We have terrific student-athletes and coaches at CSUB and that was evident once again when our teams handled the news with a level of maturity and wisdom beyond their years.
I know they were disappointed, and rightly so, but they understood the bigger picture and were appreciative that decisions were being made in the interest of their health and safety.
When we returned home, my only concern was to be available for anyone else who needed me. Our entire athletics department was heartbroken. We felt horrible for our basketball teams, which missed their chances at March Madness, for Russell Rohlfing and Josh Loomer, who had just punched their tickets to the NCAA Tournament with Pac-12 Wrestling Championships, for Autumn D’Arcy, Loren Gillilan, Mikayla Popham and Kris Rogic whose training for Olympic Swimming Trials was entirely disrupted, for Curt Threlkeld who was poised to make a name for himself in the world of track and field, for all of our spring student-athletes who lost nearly entire seasons of competition and especially for our seniors whose careers had potentially come to an abrupt end due to COVID-19.
But I was also encouraged. I am amazed every day by the response of our students, staff and the executive leadership within our department and from university leadership here at CSU Bakersfield.
Everyone has stepped up under difficult circumstances with a continued focus on supporting our students and advancing our university. We have great people!
Over the coming weeks, many will face far greater challenges than the loss of athletic competition. While disruptive and disappointing, the hard decisions we’ve made are also necessary steps to slow the spread of the virus and support the health and safety of our athletes, our university and our community.
We remain committed to doing our part to support the city of Bakersfield and our `Runner family, which has always been steadfast in its support for our student-athletes. We look forward to a return to competition.
In the meantime, please stay safe and take the necessary precautions to protect yourself, your loved ones and your neighbors.
Dr. Kenneth ‘Ziggy’ Siegfried