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November 10, 2012

Earlham tragedy leads to Rose football cancellation

TERRE HAUTE — Little did Rose-Hulman’s football players and coaches know, their 42-8 home victory over Anderson University last Saturday turned out to be their final game of the season.

And for several seniors, it was the final game of their college careers.

With Rose orginally scheduled to face Earlham at 1:30 p.m. today at Cook Stadium for their season finale, Senior Day and the annual “Battle of the Borders Broadsword,” the game was canceled Friday afternoon because of a tragedy that struck the Earlham community in Richmond early Friday morning.

The Associated Press reported that an Earlham student from suburban San Francisco was killed and two others hurt when they were hit by a train while walking near a group of nightclubs.

According to the AP story, Richmond police Capt. Bill Shake said investigators didn’t immediately know how the three Earlham students came to be hit while walking at about 1:15 a.m. Friday near Richmond’s depot district.

Earlham officials identified the student who died as senior Therese Heymann of Burlingame, Calif., and said the two injured students were airlifted to a Dayton, Ohio, hospital. Classes at the Quaker-affiliated college of about 1,200 students were suspended Friday.

At first, that put the Earlham vs. Rose-Hulman football game in jeopardy, but there still appeared to be a chance it would take place at a later date.

“Early in the morning, the Earlham athletic director [Mike Bergum] got in contact with our athletic department and indicated they wanted to play on Sunday,” Rose-Hulman football coach Jeff Sokol told the Tribune-Star. “At that point, we made the decision to postpone the game until Sunday and we moved forward to play the game on Sunday.”

But after the presidents of Earlham and Rose-Hulman talked over the phone later Friday, a final decision was made to cancel the contest. Sokol said his suggestion of playing the game next week was denied.

“I wanted my kids to play their last football game and I can’t understand why they can’t,” explained Sokol, who spent most of Friday afternoon and evening informing players, relatives of players, referees and team boosters that there would be no game and no Senior Day.

“Football is really important to our players,” he continued. “Playing this game was really important to them and their families.”

Despite feeling disappointed for his coaching staff, players and their families, Sokol realizes they’re not the victims in this unique situation.

“I know the Earlham people are dealing with a significant tragedy,” he said. “I know anytime you deal with these kind of situations, how difficult it can be. I’m sure their kids want to play too [at some point]. For some of them, it would have been the last game of their college careers as well.”

The Engineers completed their season with records of 4-5 overall and 4-3 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.

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