A Wesley football player holds up his helmet before a 2019 game

A Wesley football player holds up his helmet before a 2019 game

Wesley College will end its NCAA Division III athletics program after the 2020-21 school year, ahead of a likely acquisition by Delaware State University.

Head Football Coach Chip Knapp told WDEL that athletics staff was called into an emergency meeting at 2 p.m. on Monday, February 15, 2021, and told that their programs would be terminated after the spring season.

Delaware State and Wesley announced last July that DSU had agreed to begin an acquisition process, but did not announce at the time any details. It has not been announced how the two schools would be combined through the acquisition, as the deal is still not complete.

Knapp said after that day, he felt Monday's announcement was always probable, but that it doesn't make it easy to stomach.

"There's a grieving process you go through when you've dedicated 30-plus years to something, and then it's taken away. We're going to go through the whole thing again now that it's official, but overall we were all prepared for this announcement."

Wesley has had success in several Division III sports, but none on a bigger national scale than football, where they made six national semifinals, and had two Gagliardi Trophy winners for D3's national player of the year in QB Joe Callahan and Caesar Rodney's Rocky Myers.

Callahan and his former offensive lineman Matt Gono both appeared in NFL games, with Middletown's Jamar Baynard getting a tryout look with the Washington Redskins and former receiver Larry Beavers scoring a return touchdown in the preseason for the Saints.

It was under the direction of late-Head Coach and Athletic Director Mike Drass, who died unexpectedly in the spring of 2018. He retired with 229 wins, tied with former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel for the 49th most in NCAA history.

Wesley's basketball team also made five NCAA Tournaments, including the 2019-20 season when they won the Atlantic East Conference.

Wesley baseball also helped launch the coaching career of Smyrna's Tripp Keister, who is now with the Washington Nationals organization.

Wesley's enrollment has steadily dropped in the past seven years, as they've gone from 1416 full-time students down to 973.

As the uncertainly drew, the football program had been struggling to recruit, and one of their top players, Woodbridge's Shymere Vessels, announced he had transferred to rival Delaware Valley.

Knapp said this adds another layer to the title of "transformational coaches" a title his late-predecessor emphasized. 

"We're going to be there for our team to help them make their next decision in their college career, whether it's staying on with the situation here, or moving on to another school."  

Wesley is still awaiting an announcement from the New Jersey Athletic Conference on whether football will take place, there was scheduled to be a meeting of the league's coaches last Friday, but no schedule announcement has been made.