By: Brendan Larson, Loyola Senior
As it has with all aspects of “normal life,” the COVID-19 pandemic has put a halt to Loyola University Chicago (LUC)’s club sports in-person and gameday operations.
Among the school’s club teams, LUC’s club football team has been struggling to remain an active entity on campus and beyond. In more ways than one, this has been another burden to bear for the students who direct and play on the club, the coaching staff, and the relatively small but loyal LUC club football alumni-based community.
LUC’s club football team, not affiliated or supported by the school’s NCAA athletic department, was founded in 1974 and quickly disbanded following its lone championship season that same year. The club was revived in 2012, and has seen immense progress as Loyola students have taken up the mantle to run and develop the club over the past nine years. Following an undefeated, division championship regular season in 2019, the team’s 2020 season was cut short before it even started. The club has been working tirelessly to keep their dreams of a Fall 2021 return to the gridiron alive.
I sat down with Cole Pfeifer, LUC Club Football President and captain. Cole has played football for fifteen years and is preparing to graduate with a degree in neuroscience this May. he was able to provide further insight into the club’s progress and uncertain future.
Larson: What have been the immediate ramifications of the Pandemic on the Loyola University Chicago Club football team since last March?
Pfeifer: Oh, it has been terrible. It has been tragic for all sports across the world but It feels like, with college club sports, there has been far less focus and effort in supporting the teams’ operations. The season last fall, there had to be enough safety precautions in order to allow us to travel and play our games, so without the support in the absence of football and our usual practices it was tougher to stay in touch with the team.
Larson: That’s discouraging to hear. How did this absence of football affect the relationships of the team?
Pfeifer: The personal relationships vary from person to person on the team but this entire season without playing. I honestly think it has strengthened more than harmed them because everyone has kind of realized in the time apart that these are your brothers for life, so you reach out to them to see how they’re doing and vice versa. Even though we’re far can we still feel close by way of group messages, our facebook page, and no pad practices.
Larson: Obviously, being a part has to affect chemistry and how the team performs together. How do you think the team will play once you’re back on the field for another season?
Pfeifer: The first weeks are going to be rusty as any preseason is, but I think everybody’s going to be more than ready to get down to work and I think that it’ll actually probably have positive benefits early as everybody’s going to want to get back to it.
Larson: Recruitment is obviously a major role in the livelihood of a club, especially for a club sports team. Have you been able to recruit new talent for the fall?
Pfeifer: We’ve still been having recruits. Having said this, it has been a slower year in the recruitment department, more so than usual, and we are struggling to get the word out to all freshmen considering the majority are at home. Obviously we can’t formally host anything for prospective recruits so we can’t quite get to know them one hundred percent or the way we would prefer but we have been able to build chemistry and get better with the recruits we have at voluntary skeleton practices.
Larson: As a leading senior, how do you plan on passing on the LUC club football torch to the next generation of students?
Pfeifer: The Club is entirely run by students, so as I graduate I do have to choose a new successor. Who it’s going to be is a secret for now but he has been chosen, he’s been informed as of very recently, and I’m thinking that it’s going to go over very well. My goal as President was to increase the, I guess the word or buzz surrounding the club on campus. I feel like in general club sports are very, I don’t want to say undervalued but not widely heard of or talked about on campus for a lot of reasons. When you come to college you think oh wow, Greek life, oh wow classes are hard, teachers are scary and maybe I’ll just I’ll learn the other names of people who I live nearby. We should really hear about the club sports programs and the unrivaled experiences, relationships, and fun they provide. With this new leadership position that I’ve chosen, I believe that his goals are in line with mine, that’s a huge stepping stone for the club.
Larson: So what is the identity of this LUC club football team?
Pfeifer: It is a club that is focused on providing a football experience that goes beyond the actual play. A club that encourages challenges and growth. It’s pretty much a team of impatiently waiting brothers who are spread out across the country itching to get back in the saddle.