The pandemic has flipped college sports literally and virtually upside down since last spring. Volleyball finished its 2021 season earlier this month instead of last fall. HBCU football is now underway. The MSR in separate interviews spoke to Iowa Volleyball Coach Vicki Brown and Hamline Football Coach Chip Taylor on how they have handled the topsy-turvy world of sports under a viral threat.
Hamline University is now in the midst of spring football, but not in the usual way. The Pipers are conducting practices now until April 22 and then holding an intrasquad scrimmage sometime this spring. They haven’t played a regular-season game since the fall of 2019.
The 2020 fall season was canceled due to the coronavirus, and the MIAC could schedule games this spring. “Each school is allowed to figure out what they want to do,” Coach Chip Taylor told us. He and school officials decided to just practice and not play games.
“It’s been a challenge,” admits the Hamline HC. No games, no practices, and no typical recruiting. “A lot of college football is relationships, sitting at home talking with Mom and Dad [during a recruiting visit]…to trust us [with their sons] at Hamline University. Zoom takes the relationship piece out of it.
“I took it for granted, the team meetings and being in front of your group,” continued Taylor. “You can meet on Zoom…but it’s been tough not to be able to be in front of these guys.”
Taylor is in his fifth season at Hamline after being promoted to head coach in 2016. He was the Pipers’ defensive coordinator for three seasons before his promotion. The New Jersey native with a BA in physical education and a master’s in sports administration has nearly 20 years of coaching experience.
He has been the MIAC’s only Black football coach and one of six Black HCs in Division III. According to the NCAA’s latest demographics, there were 83 Black head coaches total in all three divisions in 2020, one more than in 2012.
There were eight Division III Black head coaches in 2012, and six in 2020. The MIAC had zero Black football coaches in 2012, and only one, Taylor, since 2016.
Player diversity is also scant—nine percent (87) of Division III football players in 2020 were Black, down four (87) in 2012.
“I’m looking forward to the MIAC in 2021,” said Taylor. The league will be without St. Thomas, who is now in Division I, but Macalester returned to the conference to play football. “It will be different,” he noted.
More importantly, the Pipers coach is looking for a season this fall after an almost two-year absence. “We’ll be close to some sort of normalcy in August when we return for training camp.
“I’m looking forward to having a tough-minded, physical football team on the field this year. We have the right kids in the program.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.