The pandemic left little of our lives untouched over the past year, as we know your lives have likewise been disrupted. Students, faculty and staff learned to conduct classes and meetings on a screen as well as in person. Student Activities, Residence Life, the Career Development Center—every organization figured out how to provide the personalized Bellarmine experience while maintaining a safe physical distance.
Athletics were not spared. The much-anticipated rise of our entire athletics program to NCAA Division I from Division II had the misfortune of occurring in the shadow of COVID-19. Initially, the ASUN Conference postponed all fall sports. Then the coronavirus delayed the start of basketball season and led to canceled games and substitute opponents.
But not even a pandemic could keep the Knights down.
The men’s basketball team charged into the season with joy and purpose. Our expectations were high, and they performed far above them. They went on a 10-game winning streak and entered their first ASUN Conference Tournament as the No. 2 seed. In the process, they ignited a national conversation about allowing DI teams to transition into the NCAA Tournament in two years rather than the current four.
They have been a vivid ray of hope during a time that severely tested our ability to find silver linings.
Athletics pulls together a university community—students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni and friends—in a way that few other university events can. There is something almost primal about cheering for a team. And our student-athletes, who are as talented in the classroom as they are on the court, are tremendous ambassadors for Bellarmine. All of our teams have risen up, and we are confident about the future.
Even during this challenging year, we are seeing how our move to DI is already expanding our geographic identity and reach. Athletic recruitment is breaking us into new territory, and the increased media exposure has been incredible.
Coach Scott Davenport and his team have proven that good people who work hard, are disciplined and put the team first can take on any challenge, no matter how enormous it seems. It is a life lesson we should all recognize and appreciate.
Any way you look at it, the 2020-21 Bellarmine Knights are a championship team. We will long remember them for showing us the path to greater excellence. And as pandemic protocols fade and we can safely gather once again, I hope to see all of you in Freedom Hall next season as we cheer for our teams.
Susan M. Donovan, Ph.D.