All Wesley coaches could do was pack up their memories

By Andy Walter
Posted 7/1/21

DOVER — There’s no shortage of stuff to be packed up after spending three decades at a place.

There are also plenty of memories attached to every trophy and photo and videotape going …

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All Wesley coaches could do was pack up their memories

Posted

DOVER — There’s no shortage of stuff to be packed up after spending three decades at a place.

There are also plenty of memories attached to every trophy and photo and videotape going into a cardboard box.

“It’s just like moving out of a house that you lived in for 30 years,” said Wesley College football coach Chip Knapp. “There’s always something else. You look around and you see some other thing that you think needs to be preserved before you go.”

Today, the Wesley College athletic department no longer exists.

Not officially, anyway.

Delaware State University’s acquisition of the Wesley property goes into effect on July 1.

So, with the day that the Wolverines’ coaches were dreading finally at hand, they spent the last couple days packing away a few remaining things and taking one last look around.

In the Wesley men’s basketball office on Monday, coach Dean Burrows still had a few trophies and things to pack away,
Mostly, though, there was just some office furniture left in the small two-room office next to Wentworth Gym.

“You look around and it’s like Will Smith at the end of the ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air,’” joked Burrows. “You just take a look around. I was just in the gym with floods of things coming back to my mind.

“All you can do is say, ‘Thank you.’ This place gave me an opportunity.”

Burrows said he got a text from one of his assistant coaches the other day.

“We both agreed, what we’ll miss most are the bus rides and being in a locker room before a game and the conversations,” said Burrows. “Basketball, the game is fun. But it’s more about the other stuff — those are the memories that we’ll always have.”

The final days of Wesley athletics weren’t without some contentious moments, however.

On Wednesday afternoon, Knapp was clearing out some things from the Wolverines’ locker room next to Mike Drass Field.

As he pulled his van out of the parking lot, Knapp found his exit blocked by a Wesley security vehicle. Athletic director Tracey Short insisted on looking in his van before she allowed him to leave.

Knapp has started a non-profit to help keep Drass’ legacy alive. He plans to raise money to donate to scholarships and charities.

After 26 years as a coach and administrator at Wesley, Short had her own offices and locker room to clear out. She said it has been a month-long project.

She found a stash of newspaper clippings from both field hockey and softball, the two sports she coached at Wesley.

“It was definitely a good trip down memory lane,” Short said on Tuesday. “We just have to get everything to the right people and make sure that we have everything that belongs to us. I’m just trying to make sure that I have everything because I don’t want to have to ask permission to come back in — and not for a negative reason but because I don’t know who I’d have to go to.

“It’s an emotional time but our alumni have been great in coming back and helping us to reminisce about the good old times,” she added.

Former football player Brandon Wright was one alumni who was still around on Wednesday. The former Wolverine was helping Knapp clean out the locker room.

The 31-year-old Wright said he’s proud that he played football for Wesley.

“I just wanted to pay homage,” he said. “Wesley has done a lot of great things for a lot of us. This program developed a lot of great young men. I came in with quite a few people and I still keep in touch with them to this day.

“The thing that kept us in the great mindset to become better is what we learned on this field from Coach Knapp and Coach Drass. They instilled a lot of things in us that really helped us develop ourselves into great young men.”

Wright, who is going to be an assistant coach to Knapp at Dover High, said it’s a difficult thing to realize that there won’t be a Wesley football program anymore.

“It’s kind of a bittersweet feeling — more bitter than sweet,” he said. “Wesley has done so much in Dover. We accomplished so much. It’s hard to hear that Wesley is no longer going to be here. ... The legacy that Coach Drass and Coach Knapp built with this program will always stand.”

Of course, no one is happy to see Wesley athletics go.

Its history stretches back to its junior-college days when coaches like Bob Andrus, Jim Wentworth and Bob Reed were mainstays and Wolverine athletes accomplished some great things.

There’s also some frustration from Wesley’s final staff that a path couldn’t have been found over the years to keep the school financially viable. Coaches talk about Wesley’s relatively favorable location relative to other small schools they see succeeding around the country.

But those regrets will just have to be packed away with the memories.

Knapp said one of the great things about the clearing-out process was talking with former players who came out to help.
“We could have talked for days about all the different stories — about Coach Drass and different things,” said Knapp. “At the end of the day, when we were getting ready to leave, we still continued to talk for an hour just about different things from the past — the Wesley memories.

“We’ve been so busy that you really haven’t had to think about it. There’s some sadness and anger, too, — like ‘How does this happen?’ I think all the people involved are going through this.”