On Wednesday, the Big East ditched the fall sports season. On Thursday, with more than half of Division I soccer teams shutting down because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA said it would not stage the men’s and women’s tournaments. Division II and III championships will also go dark.
Wiese said he has received two types of calls and messages from friends, supporters and former players: sympathy for a lost year and gallows humor that the Hoyas’ reign will continue through at least the spring, when the season might occur.
Field hockey, men’s and women’s cross-country, women’s volleyball, men’s water polo and the Football Championship Subdivision were also called off. Top-tier football is still hoping to play, even after several teams and conferences said they wouldn’t.
“We told our players probably three days before the [Big East] announcement: It’s not happening, guys,” Wiese said.
College soccer’s absence hits the D.C. area particularly hard. Georgetown and Virginia met in the NCAA final in December. Maryland won its fourth title in 2018, and Virginia took its seventh crown in 2014. On the women’s side, Virginia and Georgetown have been to the Final Four.
With all but two regulars returning and a top recruiting class arriving, the Georgetown men were primed for a repeat run this fall.
“It could have been the best team we ever had at Georgetown, potentially better than last year’s group,” said Wiese, who, in his 14th season last year, oversaw a 20-1-3 campaign culminating with a 3-3 draw and a shootout victory over the Cavaliers.
The Hoyas were initially slated to open training camp this week. Last month, when the Big East eliminated nonconference games and pushed the start of the season to late September, the Hoyas were to begin practicing in late August.
All along, Wiese was pessimistic. “How long were we going to wait to say we’re not going to play?” he said. “It’s a pandemic. We weren’t going to play.”
Wiese hosted a call this week with the players’ parents.
“The overarching thing they are worried about is the mental health of the kids,” he said. “You’ve got elite Division I athletes who were taken away from their sport, taken away from their teammates and best friends, and they are trying to develop as players and people.”
With the season called off, he, like the coaches of other top programs, is left to wonder whether rosters will remain intact. Players on track to graduate in December might move on.
Several Georgetown players are from MLS academies; they are eligible for homegrown contract offers at any time. Typically, MLS teams wait until the winter. Under the circumstances, that could change.
Top Hoyas prospects include midfielders Jacob Montes (Portland Timbers) and Sean Zawadzki (Columbus Crew). Incoming freshman Chris Hegardt is playing this summer as an amateur for the Tacoma Defiance, the Seattle Sounders’ developmental squad.
Once players enroll in classes, the NCAA forbids them from playing with pros. Without a season, Wiese is hoping the NCAA will consider issuing waivers for players to remain active with pro clubs while taking virtual classes.
Amid the NCAA chaos of recent weeks, no one is quite sure where things stand.
“The NCAA is sort of mirroring our federal government’s response: Just do whatever makes sense for you,” Wiese said. “As a result, everyone is sort of floating around, not knowing what direction we go in.”
Wiese’s goalkeepers could go in other directions. Last year, freshman Tomas Romero (Philadelphia Union) and sophomore Giannis Nikopolidis alternated from game to game. Both were expected back, but with the season off and campus closed, Nikopolidis is home in Greece, exploring pro options.
Before enrolling at Georgetown, he rose through the youth system at Olympiacos, one of Greece’s big clubs. His father, Antonis, was a revered national team goalkeeper and is well-connected throughout Europe.
Wiese will not dissuade him.
“I think he is going to try to get in front of people for tryouts,” Wiese said. “He can pop around Europe and still be a student. It’s a good opportunity to figure it out.”
Other international players are leaving. Maryland’s starting goalkeeper, Niklas Neumann, a second-team all-Big Ten selection last year as a freshman, withdrew from school this summer to chase a contract in his native Germany, Terrapins Coach Sasho Cirovski said.
A spring season could force many high-end U.S. players to choose between the NCAA and MLS, which conducts the college draft in January and opens training camps shortly thereafter.
MLS could hold firm and force players to decide; stage the draft as scheduled and allow them to report to teams in the summer; move the draft to June; or abandon it altogether and allow players unaffiliated with academies to become free agents.
“When I feel sorry for this group of [nine] seniors,” Wiese said, “I look back to last year and say: ‘At least we got that. And that was pretty good.’ ”