The latest decisions by several intercollegiate athletic conferences put the fall sports season in … [+] increasing doubt.
Less than two weeks after the Ivy League announced it would play no varsity sports in the fall, five more college conferences have just announced that they are shelving all or most intercollegiate athletic competition for the upcoming fall semester. It’s just the latest round of decisions involving the cancellation or postponement of college sports because of the serious health risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Atlantic 10 Conference announced Friday that it was postponing competitions and championships in all fall sports until the spring of 2021 because of the pandemic. It left open the slim possibility that those sports could be played in the fall semester if the situation improved. The conference said it was allowing what it termed a “look-in window” in mid-September, after which a reduced conference schedule could be attempted if it were determined that the risk of the coronavirus had been reduced.
The Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) Board of Directors announced what it described as “the extremely difficult decision to suspend CCC intercollegiate athletic competition for the Fall 2020 semester.” The conference said it hoped “to begin competition for winter sports athletic competition as early as January 1, 2021.” And it added the following: “The decision to suspend CCC play in the Fall 2020 semester does not preclude individual CCC institutions from making institutional decisions to schedule some athletic competition.”
The North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) Presidents’ Council unanimously determined that its eight member institutions would not participate in intercollegiate athletic competition during the Fall 2020 season. The announcement continued, “NEAC institutions will work together in collaboration with the conference office and the NCAA to seek alternate opportunities to provide a meaningful student-athlete experience throughout the fall season. A decision regarding winter and spring competition will be made at a later date”
On Friday, the East Coast Conference (ECC) Council of Presidents unanimously voted to suspend all intercollegiate competition for the fall 2020 semester. The ECC Council of Presidents issued the following statement: “In the best tradition of NCAA Division II, the presidents of the East Coast Conference always make the health and safety of our student-athletes our highest priority, and this is why we unanimously chose to make this unprecedented change in this year’s schedule.”
The (Colonial Athletic Association CAA) announced today that the Conference’s Board of Directors had voted to suspend conference football competition in the Fall of 2020 due to continuing concerns associated with the pandemic. The conference indicated its commitment to exploring the possibility of having a football season during the spring of 2021. The Conference’s Board of Directors also “affirmed that the Conference’s policies would permit member institutions the ability to explore the option of pursuing playing an independent football schedule in the fall of 2020.”
On Thursday, the Big East Conference, which includes prominent Division I basketball programs like Villanova, the University of Connecticut, Syracuse, and Georgetown, updated plans for six 2020 fall sports. It did not cancel any sports outright, but it did limit them to intra-conference competition. “Due to the unprecedented and continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, BIG EAST fall sports schedules will not include any non-conference competition.” The decision applies to men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball. No decision was announced on basketball scheduling. The Big East does not sponsor football.
These latest actions – affecting dozens of colleges and universities in NCAA Divisions I, II, and III – came on the heels of the Big Ten and Pac-12 cancelling all non-conference football games for the 2020 season. But now, even that approach is looking more optimistic than realistic.
A statement from NCAA President Mark Emmert that accompanied the latest NCAA guidance on conducting athletics during the pandemic (Resocialization of Collegiate Sport: Developing Standards for Practice and Competition) has thrown a splash of cold water on hopes for anything resembling a normal fall of intercollegiate sports.
“When we made the extremely difficult decision to cancel last spring’s championships it was because there was simply no way to conduct them safely,” said Emmert. “This document lays out the advice of health care professionals as to how to resume college sports if we can achieve an environment where COVID-19 rates are manageable. Today, sadly, the data point in the wrong direction. If there is to be college sports in the fall, we need to get a much better handle on the pandemic.”