Thursday, 09 July 2020 19:42

Columbia’s Dante Miller reacts to Ivy League’s cancelation of fall athletics

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Richmond County native Dante Miller (7) reacts to the Ivy League's cancelation of fall sports. Richmond County native Dante Miller (7) reacts to the Ivy League's cancelation of fall sports. Columbia University Athletics


PRINCETON, N.J. — On Wednesday, the Ivy League knocked over the first domino in what could be a fast free fall for college and high school athletics across the nation.

The Ivy League Council of Presidents made the decision to cancel the upcoming fall semester of athletics, the first major Division I conference to do so in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement delivered by the Ivy League presidents to athletic directors, student-athletes, coaches and other sports personnel, it was noted that, “we have a responsibility to make decisions that are in the best interest of the students who attend our institutions, as well as the faculty and staff who work at our schools. 

“These decisions are extremely difficult, particularly when they impact meaningful student-athlete experiences that so many value and cherish.

“With the information available to us today regarding the continued spread of the virus, we simply do not believe we can create and maintain an environment for intercollegiate athletic competition that meets our requirements for safety and acceptable levels of risk, consistent with the policies that each of our schools is adopting as part of its reopening plans this fall,” the statement concluded.

One of the thousands of college athletes within the Ivy League to see his season wiped away is Dante Miller. A former Richmond Senior High School standout running back and 2018 graduate, Miller was set to begin his junior season at tailback for the Columbia University Lions.

“Honestly, it’s a big shock that the entire season was canceled, but I’m looking forward to staying ready,” Miller said. “I’m not happy with the decision, but I agree that it should be done to protect athletes from COVID-19.

“I think the Ivy League being the first conference to cancel its season is not surprising because a lot of other big conferences look at us for a lot of big decisions,” he added. “It took a lot of guts to be the first conference to do it, but I think it’s a big step that will give other conferences guidance to protect players.”

The suspension of athletics, as determined by the Ivy League, is only through the first semester of the 2020-2021 school year. The Council of Presidents will reconvene and reassess the fate of the spring semester season and those athletic programs later this year.

Because of the unprecedented circumstances surrounding the cancelation of fall athletics, Miller will not be charged with using a season of NCAA or Ivy League eligibility.

The shutdown involves a variety of fall sports like football, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country, volleyball and field hockey. Because winter sports also begin toward the tail end of the fall semester, basketball, hockey, swimming and diving and wrestling are among several other programs that may not play.

Despite there not being any planned competitions at Columbia, or any of the seven other Ivy League schools, fall sports programs are still able to practice to some extent.

“(Practice) will be permitted provided they are structured in accordance with each institution’s procedures and applicable state regulations,” declared the Council of Presidents. 

“The Ivy League will also issue guidelines on a phased approach to conditioning and practice activities to allow for interaction among student-athletes and coaches that will begin with limited individual and small group workouts and build to small group practice sessions, if public health conditions permit.”

Since the initial collegiate athletics dead period put into place by the NCAA in early March, Miller has been back at home in Rockingham trying to prepare for a season that he hoped to have.  

He managed to acclimate himself away from spring football practices in Manhattan, and instead resorted to a rigorous training schedule and some former high school teammates to keep him active. Miller often spends time working out with current Raiders Caleb and Kellan Hood.

“I’ve been on the grind seven days a week,” Miller said with a chuckle. “I got back (to Richmond County) on March 23 and I’ve been at it every day. I’m running, lifting, working on one-on-ones and route running.

“The team is still having Zoom meetings, and we’re learning new plays and trying to stay connected,” he added. “And I’m studying a lot of film.”

The 5-9, 195-pound tailback played in all 10 of Columbia’s games as a sophomore, including two starts. Miller rushed for 150 yards and one touchdown on 52 carries and scored his lone touchdown of the season, a 17-yard carry, against Penn on Oct. 19.

This season, he had plans to move up the depth chart and serve as more of an impact player for the Lions and head coach Al Bagnoli.

“The last two seasons, I felt like I was making a big impact on the team,” Miller said, “This fall I was hoping to take things over and have a breakout season. But I’m looking to dominate whenever we step on the field next.

“Due to the pandemic, I’ve had to do a lot of training by myself, which isn’t abnormal,” he closed. “COVID-19 has been a blessing in disguise to make me a better football player.” 

Miller said that “if it comes to it,” he will redshirt this season and play his senior season next year with the Lions. For his extra year of eligibility, he says he has his eyes set on going to a Power Five conference.

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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