WASHINGTON – Gallaudet came up short in the school’s first-ever playoff game Saturday but the team and its coach celebrated a season that defied the odds, dispelled myths and gave hope to a new generation of deaf and hard of hearing students.
The Bisons dropped the final two games of the season after winning the first nine. The team of the deaf and hard of hearing players ended its historic season losing to Hobart 34-7 in its Division 3 debut.
The team fell behind early and never managed to catch up against No. 7 Hobart in the first round playoff game.
“We knew we were going to have to play one of our best games,” Coach Chuck Goldstein tells WTOP in a phone interview.
But Hobart’s tough play and a slew of other obstacles proved too much for the scrappy Bisons, who dressed just 48 players even though NCAA rules allows 58 to participate in playoff games.
The team’s starting defensive end had to switch jerseys in the middle of the game to play offensive tackle, Goldstein says.
At times the snow was so thick, the coach couldn’t see across the field. Players wore old artic coats, given to the team by the University of Maryland, to stay warm on the sidelines. “We just didn’t have any. We’ve never played in upstate New York before in November,” he says.
Despite all that, Goldstein is proud of his players.
“Our kids never quit. They never hung their heads. They didn’t stop fighting. I’m proud of our guys, not just today, but this entire year,” he says. “They put Gallaudet on the map.”
He called the team’s first trip to the NCAA playoffs a strong foundation to build from. Starting Monday, the coach plans to begin recruiting players for next year and the team will get back to work conditioning after the Thanksgiving break.
And the potential number of future is Bisons growing. Goldstein says his email box is flooded by deaf and hard of hearing high school students who never heard of Gallaudet and now want to come and play and get their education at the D.C.-based university.
“A lot of people didn’t know about Gallaudet before the season and now there’s no question, people know who we are,” he says.