By Jay Simon: The Whetstone
Senior football player Shymere Vessels said he came to a Division 3 college because of the small classroom sizes and how he could develop a personal relationship with his professor.
Now with DSU’s (Delaware State University) acquisition of Wesley College, Vessels is scared he will be just a number.
“It does not surprise me at all about DSU buying out Wesley,” he said. “The school was always in debt, fewer students started coming, two dorms on campus (Gooding and Williams Hall) closed, and the school kept asking the state for money every year. It was only a matter of time before Wesley was eventually bought out.”
Vessels, along with many other students, athletes, and staff have mixed emotions about what the acquisition will do to academics and athletics.
“I choose Wesley because Wesley was one of the most dominant programs on the east coast,” he said. “Wesley has been dominant over the last 15-20 seasons and it feels like a more family type environment here. I would hate to see all of that disappear.”
Steve Newton, Presidential Fellow for Media Relations and Executive Communications at Delaware State University, said in September that he needs to make it clear that this is not a “merger,” it is an acquisition.
“We are taking over the facilities and the assets, as well as some of the employees (not determined who or how many yet) and as many of the remaining undergrads who want to finish at DSU,” he said. “Wesley College, as an independent entity, will cease to exist after June 30, 2021 if everything goes as planned.”
Newton said that everybody in Dover knows that Wesley has always been a (D3) football powerhouse.
“We very much want to honor that tradition, and keep it alive, but whether we can successfully run parallel D1 and D3 programs (even for a while as a transition) is not a question we’ve got the answer to, at least not yet,” he said. “Anything we do is not our decision alone. The NCAA has to approve anything we decide to try.”
Junior women’s soccer player Bailey D’Amico said she thinks the acquisition is a good idea because it will present more opportunities, but she is afraid it will affect her credits.
“I transferred into Wesley the year before and I had trouble with credits being accepted and it made me fall behind so I’m not sure what will be accepted and if I will be behind even more,” she said. “I like the small class sizes Wesley had to offer. I can get to know my professors and I also learn better in a small class environment since there is less distractions.”
D’Amico said she thinks DSU will provide better facilities because they are Division 1.
“But I chose to come to Wesley for soccer,” she said. “The bond that I created with my teammates and coaches, as well as other teams and people on campus, is something I am grateful for. I just hope that doesn’t get messed up with everything going on.”
Junior men’s soccer player Cade Sundermann said he likes that DSU bought out Wesley College.
“There are benefits, such as tuition, that will help out a lot,” he said. “Although I’m not sure how I feel about my degree saying DSU. I love Wesley and it will always be my home. I’ll always be a wolverine at heart.”
Sundermann knows there is no Division 1 men’s soccer team at DSU.
“I heard that Wesley is keeping their athletic program as it is, but who knows what is actually going to happen,” he said.
Sundermann hopes that DSU creates a D1 men’s soccer team.
If that happens, he said, “I will meet that challenge and work to be the best player that I can be.”
“It would be a really awesome experience to play Division I,” Sundermann said. “I had other offers, but I wanted to come to Wesley. I wanted to help change the program, grow, and help the team in any way possible. The people here at Wesley really made my decision easy for where to go.
Newton said it is possible to run parallel D1 and D3 programs, but it’s rare.
“We can only find one or two examples in the last 30 years of NCAA history,” he said. “We are working on the transition.”
Newton said one of the biggest problems is figuring out scholarships.
“Most Wesley athletes are on academic or needs-based scholarships because D3 does not award athletic scholarships the same way D1 does,” he said. “So this fall we are working through that issue even as we begin to consolidate some of our efforts (including training staff and maintenance of facilities.”
Newton said DSU’s athletic director, D. Scott Gines, will recommend a plan to DSU’s president, Tony Allen, by either January or February for what will happen by summer.
Senior women’s soccer player Emily Caldarelli said she doesn’t know what to think about her graduation this May.
“It is definitely a weird feeling to know that I am the last graduating class of Wesley College,” she said. “I don’t think that there is a specific emotion to pinpoint how I feel, but I’m just excited to get my degree.”
Caldarelli said she came to Wesley to be able to play sports.
“DSU is D1 and provides a lot of new opportunities, but I came to Wesley for sports and my major,” she said. “It’s nice because I can play soccer and lacrosse with no problem here at Wesley.”
Senior Abe Mansaray said he came to Wesley for football and the small classroom sizes.
“I wouldn’t like the larger classes,” he said. “It is a lot easier for me to learn and focus in small classroom environments.”
Wesley’s size was a big factor in the decision for where Mansaray wanted to go to school.
“I came from a small high school and wanted to try to stick to something similar to that,” he said. “Now that I am graduating, it’s weird knowing the school you graduated from doesn’t really exist anymore. I don’t know whether to say I graduated from Wesley College or DSU now.”