By: Damani Eason; The Whetstone
Junior Marcus Gaspard entered Wesley College in 2018 with four friends from his local high school by his side. They all were ready to play Wolverine football.
Fast forward three years,
“Now I’m the only one left,” Gaspard said, and is now wondering if he should have jumped ship earlier like his friends.
Gaspard’s athletic career – like every other Division III student-athlete’s career at Wesley– will come to an end after this semester. Delaware State University announced what perhaps became inevitable after it said it would acquire Wesley at the end of the 2020-2021 school year; it announced there will be no more Division III sports once Wesley ends June 30.
“Delaware State University Leadership has decided not to continue with a DIII Athletic program at our College following the acquisition,” President Robert Clark emailed to students Feb. 15.
This decision shocked Wesley College’s student-athletes and dismayed coaches. Many said they had been led to believe that Division III sports were going to continue. Some even said the school didn’t try hard enough.
“My sports family is being taken away from me,” sophomore Catherine Bennett, who plays on the women’s lacrosse team, said.
Sophomore Kara Dietrich said she cried and felt like she lost everything. Dietrich, also a women’s lacrosse player, said many students came here to play sports.
“I only came for lacrosse,” she said.
Coach Jillian Lontz of the women’s lacrosse team said the school should have done more.
“Wesley College should have fought harder,” she said.
Melanie Grimes, the counseling services coordinator, said there has been a greater influx of students seeking out her services.
“With this recent announcement happening, I had more new students come seek out my services,” she said. “And then the people I was seeing originally needed to meet on a more constant basis.”
Wesley College is known as one of the few schools that high school students often choose to play college sports at the Division III level.
The decision emotionally affected Wesley coaches.
Juli Greep, who coaches women’s softball, said Wesley athletics was the heartbeat of this campus.
“Not having it will cause a large hole that will not be able to be filled,” she said.
Gaspard said that DSU should have fought harder to keep Wesley sports, especially considering the talent that is on the teams and because of the ranking of teams, including football.
Gaspard also said that Penn State was able to manage both a Division I athletic team and Division III athletic teams.
Kristina Petersen, the Associate Athletics Director for Strategic Communications at Penn State, confirmed Gaspard’s statement.
“Penn State is a school that is Division I,” she said, “but has Division III sports teams at the branch campuses we are affiliated with.”
Dean Burrows, who coaches men’s basketball, said he felt a roller coaster of emotions and that the announcement numbed him.
Burrows said he spent his own money, contacted other colleges, and found books about situations similar to Wesley’s and reported the information to others.
“No one would listen to the dumb basketball coach,” he said.
“The Wesley College Board was not protective enough and failed us,” Lontz said.
Dietrich said she already had a meeting with her coach about transferring.
“I talked to Coach Lontz, signed a Division III release form, and she’s been willing to help me find new homes to play women’s lacrosse,” she said,
She said she is looking at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pa.
Wesley’s athletic director Tracey Short said she has accepted what happened, and others must do so, too.
“This is the last year that you will ever get to play as Wesley College Wolverines,” she said. “Make it the best that we truly can.”