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Ichabods take advantage of NCAA’s extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19

From The Ichabod - Fall 2021
Story by Annie Flachsbarth

When much of the world went remote and the COVID-19 pandemic limited or postponed in-person activities in 2020, many student-athletes were left wondering if their college athletic careers would be cut short. However, thanks to an exception granted by the NCAA, student-athletes are getting another chance, including Washburn University men’s basketball player Tyler Geiman, bba ’21, and women’s basketball player Hunter Bentley, ba ’21.

In October 2020, the NCAA granted fall and winter sport athletes affected by the pandemic an extra year of eligibility, whether they competed in the 2020-21 season or not. This allowed athletes the flexibility to compete freely in the 2020-21 season and still return for an additional year of competition in the 2021-22 season.

Tyler Geiman

(Tyler Geiman, bba '21. Photo by Joy Smith, Washburn Athletic Communications)

Basketball in the Time of COVID

Washburn athletes were lucky they weren’t completely stopped from competing like other schools around the country. However, the 2020-21 basketball season was restricted to conference-only games with strict weekly COVID-19 testing procedures.

“We had our COVID testing at the beginning of each week. There was always lots of anxiety while we waited to get the results back,” Bentley said. “We had a few games that were postponed, but that was because of other teams’ covid tests. We didn’t have anyone who was actively playing on our team test positive.”

For both Bentley and Geiman, the weirdest part of playing basketball during a pandemic was the lack of spectators in the stands. Crowd sizes were extremely limited due to social distancing guidelines.

“This was a tough year for a lot of teams, and it’s a different type of energy when there are no fans in the gym,” Geiman said. “You really have to rely on yourself and your teammates to keep spirits up.”

“It’s hard playing in a silent gym,” Bentley said. “You always want to win and play hard and do your best, but when there isn’t anyone there cheering and yelling, it’s hard to sway the momentum.”

Hunter Bentley

(Hunter Bentley, ba '21. Photo by Joy Smith, Washburn Athletic Communications)

The Rebound

Bentley, who became the 24th Washburn basketball player in program history to eclipse 1,000 career points, is returning for her fifth year in the fall.

“The main part of my decision to stay another year was the team,” she said. “If they weren’t as good of teammates as they are or if I didn’t think we had the potential to be really good, I don’t think I would have stayed. I’m really excited to get started.”

Geiman, who is also returning for his fifth year, is likely to continue climbing the record books. He’s currently second all-time at Washburn with 558 career assists and ranked fourth in career 3-pointers. He is the first Ichabod to have at least 1,000 points, 500 assists, 500 rebounds and 100 steals.

“It didn’t really feel like the last go around for me, so once I heard I could come back, it was a no-brainer,” he said. “We made the (NCAA) tournament three of the last four years, which has been really cool to be on a team with a lot of good talent. We have a lot of guys back for next year, and I’m really excited I get to do this.”

Non-conference games for both teams begin in November and MIAA games start in December.

The men are coming off a 20-7 season where they won the MIAA postseason tournament, and the women went 12-12 and advanced to the second round of the MIAA tournament.

Both players earned their bachelor’s degrees last spring. Geiman aims to graduate in the spring of 2022 with a master of business administration degree.

“I love Washburn and the small campus feel,” Geiman said. “I also love the athletic department and Topeka. There’s a lot of support. It’s a great place to be.”

Bentley aims to graduate with her master’s in communications and leadership in 2022. She hopes to get a job in government, and someday she would love to coach. But right now, she’s excited to get back on the court with an arena full of fans.

“It will definitely be nice to have people in the gym supporting us again,” Bentley said. “I hope we can have as many people there as possible.” 

The Ichabod Magazine Winter 2022 cover - Memorial Union with snow, pine needles in the foreground

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