Athletics officials are considering their options after the closing of an Oklahoman university.
St. Gregory’s University, a private liberal arts school in Shawnee, Oklahoma, closed at the end of last semester due to financial issues. Athletics officials are now deciding whether to accept forfeits from the school or to seek new opponents for the games scheduled against St. Gregory’s athletic teams.
“I’ve been here 15 years and this has never happened,” Athletic Director Jim Abbott said. “Normally, if there is a normal way to close a university, they would complete the academic year.”
The sports most affected by St. Gregory’s closing are baseball, softball, and men’s and women’s basketball.
Abbott said it was too late to find any other basketball opponents, so officials decided to accept forfeits for that sport, but they are searching for alternative opponents in baseball and softball.
“As far as I can tell, softball is having lots of trouble trying to find anybody to play,” he said. “Baseball may have a better opportunity. We basically have until the end of the season to make a decision.”
Officials are looking for opponents for three baseball games and four softball games, including games in the Sooner Athletic Conference tournament.
SAC officials decided that forfeits from St. Gregory’s will count as wins within OCU standings, but not in the tournament standings.
Men’s and women’s basketball accepted forfeits for two games each, scheduled for Jan. 11 and Feb. 17. This means the university can consider those games wins, but they will not improve tournament standings.
Abbott said it ultimately doesn’t matter because every other team will be in the same situation.
“Even if you counted them as wins, everybody in the lead would have two wins, so it doesn’t really affect the standings,” he said.
Baseball Coach Denney Crabaugh said scheduling new games is tough.
“It’s gotten so insane, as far as scheduling is concerned, that I’m calling people for 2019, and they’re saying ‘We’re already full,’” Crabaugh said. “To be able to sit there and find games in November, it’s just almost impossible.”
Right Hand Pitcher Caleb Evans said there are difficulties with filling in conference games because they occur during the same time as the conferences of several other schools.
“The biggest issue with St. Greg’s is that they were in our conference,” Evans said. “When you take away conference games, that’s a harder thing to fill in because it’s in the midst of everyone else’s conference season as well, so it’s going to be a tough thing to try to fill in, for sure.”
The next softball game to be forfeited or filled with an alternative opponent will be at 5 p.m. March 29 in Ann Lacy Stadium. The vacant home game in baseball will be at 1 p.m. March 31 in Jim Wade Stadium.
Abbott said he’s greatly disheartened by the closing of St. Gregory’s.
“I have a lot of respect for the folks at St. Gregory’s,” he said. “It was a great school. We had lots of great competitions over the years, and it’s really devastating to see what they’ve had to go through. It is heartbreaking to see this happen.”
Softball Coach Phil McSpadden was unavailable for comment Monday.