The news hit Rich Ciufo Jr. hard. The senior captain and starting shortstop for the Brown University baseball team was in the middle of practice Wednesday afternoon when head coach Grant Achilles pulled the team off the field for an emergency meeting.
“We had no idea what Coach wanted,” Ciufo said. “Coach was crying as he broke the news that our season was officially over because of concerns over the coronavirus. It was devastating. All the seniors were in total disbelief. It’s just not real. Here we were on this beautiful sunny afternoon playing the game we love, getting ready for the Ivy League season. And bam, just like that, the day turned worse than ugly — I broke down and cried.”
In a statement taken from The Ivy League website, “With further developments in the outbreak of COVID-19, the Ivy League Presidents are announcing their unanimous decision to cancel all spring athletics practice and competition through the remainder of the academic year.
"In accordance with the guidance of public health and medical professionals, several Ivy League institutions have announced that students will not return to campus after spring break, and classes will be held virtually during the semester. Given this situation, it is not feasible for practice and competition to continue."
Ciufo, a pro prospect from Medford, attended Patchogue-Medford High School and then Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. He was having a terrific start to his senior year. He was hitting .330 over 12 games and the slick fielding shortstop was catching the attention of area scouts.
“I’m having the best start to a season that I’ve ever had,” Ciufo said. “I’m a senior and hopefully getting picked up late in the draft. It’s shocking that our season is over. Everyone is heartbroken. But for the seniors it’s devastating, so we stayed together after the news and went back out onto the field and took some swings and worked out. We’ll wait for the University to put out an official statement and then figure out what to do.”
The decision to cancel spring sports in the Ivy League comes days after the New England Small College Athletic Conference canceled all spring sports.
“There were three students on campus tested and they all came back negative,” said Ciufo, who will graduate in May with a degree in economics. “Now, there are questions about our playing eligibility moving forward. There are no graduate students allowed on Ivy League rosters. We’re hoping the NCAA will give us a year of eligibility back.
"We respect the decision that was made in the best interests of the student-athletes. We’re going to get all the captains from the spring sports teams at Brown together and compose a letter to the president to let her know how we feel and to see what comes next. It can’t end like this.”
Ciufo feels so strongly about losing his senior year of baseball due to the outbreak he took to change.org to start a petition to encourage the NCAA to grant another season of eligibility to all of the players affected by the decision to cancel the season.
He has a goal of 5,000 signatures. Within two hours of his post, Ciufo had already accumulated more than 3,100 signatures.