Stebbins, Cornell put football on hold

July 22, 2020 Cranberry Local Sports

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Seneca Valley graduate Jake Stebbins makes a tackle as a linebacker for Cornell during a game last season. Stebbins may not be able to build on his standout freshman campaign with the Big Red as the Ivy League announced it will postpone fall sports until at least Jan. 1.

Jake Stebbins is going to be in very unfamiliar territory this fall.

Especially on Sept. 19.

That was the Saturday afternoon when the Cornell University football team was scheduled to begin the 2020 season at home against Marist College.

There will be no game on that day — or any day this fall at Cornell.

The Ivy League recently postponed its fall sports season until at least Jan. 1 because of the coronavirus pandemic that’s seen a resurgence.

“This is my first fall since I was 7 not playing football,” Stebbins said.

For Stebbins, a Seneca Valley graduate who had a standout freshman campaign for the Big Red at linebacker in 2019, the announcement was a gut punch.

“I think for me, I was at least hopeful,” Stebbins said. I thought maybe we’d have a modified season with conference games only.”

The decision also affects Butler graduate Nate Cornibe, who will be a freshman offensive lineman at Cornell this fall.

Stebbins said the decision on fall sports wasn’t completely unexpected.

He said he had a feeling it was coming when Ivy League schools announced most classes this fall would be held online.

Only a few classes — those with smaller class sizes — will be held in person.

“That kind of ended sports in the fall,” Stebbins said.

Stebbins was looking to build on his huge freshman season.

Last year, Stebbins recorded 58 tackles with 4 sacks and two forced fumbles.

He was a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award given to the FCS Freshman of the Year.

Stebbins is still recovering from elbow surgery he had two months ago to clean up loose cartilage.

It has limited how much he could prepare this summer, he said.

Not that he could prepare a lot anyway with facilities shut down because of COVID-19.

“It’s been tough because you’re limited in what you can do and who you can see,” Stebbins said. “I’ve been limiting myself to just one or two people. You just don’t see many people.

“I’ve been doing a lot of physical therapy for my elbow, so I haven’t been able to lift a lot. Luckily, I have a small weight rack at home.”

Stebbins said he would have been ready to go when camp opened next month.

He’s hoping there will be a season in the spring.

“I think what we were doing to prepare for the fall, we’ll keep doing to prepare for the spring,” Stebbins said.

If there is no football this spring, Stebbins would likely keep his year of eligibility.

He may not be able to use it.

“The Ivy League, they make it difficult,” Stebbins said. “You’re not allowed to play sports as a graduate student. You either have to take a semester off or take a double major and go for an extra year. It’s possible, but it’s very difficult.”

That’s why Stebbins is hoping for a spring season.

The Ivy League was the first to scuttle winter sports in March because of the pandemic. Three days later, the NCAA canceled all spring sports.

The league was also the first to postpone fall sports. The Patriot League followed suit, postponing its fall slate.

“No one’s happy about it,” Stebbins said. “This was going to be the last chance to play for a lot of seniors.”

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