No one thought the Samford Bulldogs women’s basketball team would be where they were on March 15 except for themselves.
The Bulldogs managed to turn a 3-9 start into an 18-14 record that ended with a 2020 Southern Conference regular season and tournament championship. This was Head Coach Carley Kuhn’s first year with the Bulldogs, and quite a memorable first season it was.
“We continued to improve all year and everyone bought into their role and supported each other,” Kuhns said. “We really played for the team and not as individuals.”
And then, the 2020 season became even more memorable, but not how anyone hoped it would.
On March 15, the NCAA canceled the 2020 Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournament due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. The tournament would have begun five days later.
“My initial reaction was just shock and sadness,” Kuhns added. “The unbelievable opportunity that we earned to be taken away was just an unsettling feeling.”
This would have been the Bulldogs’ third appearance in the NCAA Tournament in program history. The outcome of the tournament was not even on the team’s mind, but rather appreciating the opportunity to compete with the best teams in the country.
“Obviously, we know now the extremity of the situation, and that it was the right call, but I just really feel for every member of our team, staff, and especially our eight seniors who worked so hard their entire career to get to this point,” Kuhns said.
The team’s miraculous season reached far and wide and was even discussed by ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt. Just after the NCAA and many high school athletic seasons were canceled, Van Pelt began a segment called “Senior Night,” honoring the incredible seasons of 2020 that ended far too early.
“(Samford) started the year 1-6, then they were 3-9, but they stormed to the SoCon regular reason title, then the conference tournament title as well,” said Van Pelt. “Their eight seniors were tournament bound.”
“I thought it was really neat that we were recognized nationally and on that platform,” Kuhns said in response to the shoutout from Van Pelt. “All of our kids, their families, and the Samford community have really been behind making this team feel special and recognized.”
A glimmer of good news that has impacted college athletics since the cancellation of all spring sports came one day after the news broke. The NCAA is planning to give all spring athletes an extra year of eligibility. Scholarship and recruiting guidelines affected by this ruling are still being reviewed by the NCAA.
As of now, there are no immediate plans to reschedule the 2020 NCAA Tournament. The 2020-2021 season, the second under the reigns of Carley Kuhns, will begin in early November.
“I am so proud of this team, and it feels so special to have had this year with such an amazing group of women. I know we will cherish these memories forever and get to hang a banner in the Pete. Nothing can take away what they accomplished, which was two championships in one season.”