With Ivy League decision still unannounced, NE-10, NESCAC and more begin making calls around early 2021 athletic competition
The Ivy League did not respond to multiple requests for comment on an expected timeline for the Ancient Eight’s decision, while the NESCAC announced the cancellation of winter competition last week.
Although the Ivy League has not yet announced its plan for spring-semester athletics, at least one collegiate athletic conference in New England has already ruled out the possibility of winter competition. Others remain undecided on how they intend to proceed next semester.
The Division III New England Small College Athletic Conference announced the cancellation of all winter NESCAC competition last Thursday. Four other Division I conferences with significant membership in the northeast — the America East, Atlantic 10, Northeast Conference and Patriot League — have all floated the idea of conducting fall-sport competition during the spring semester.
The Ivy League office did not respond to multiple requests for comment on an expected timeline for the Ancient Eight’s decision.
Meanwhile, the Northeast-10 Conference, a Division II league that includes the University of New Haven, has already begun making advances toward implementing their spring plans. Commissioner Julie Ruppert explained that the league decided to move fall sports to the spring rather than cancel the entire season in hopes to maintain as many opportunities as possible for student-athletes.
“It was more about staying true to our mission,” Ruppert said in a Zoom interview with the News Tuesday afternoon. “These student-athletes came back to school, they placed their trust in the schools to keep them safe. They’re paying their way in a lot of cases, and it became important to us to do what we could to provide them the opportunity to compete.”
While formal schedules have yet to be released, according to Ruppert, the NE-10 intends on kicking off winter sports with a conference schedule in basketball on Jan. 9. In addition to basketball, the conference has plans to begin their hockey season in mid-January and commence their volleyball season — which the NE-10 typically plays in the fall — near the conclusion of the same month.
As for other fall sports that are being repositioned into the spring, Ruppert said the goal is to begin play at the end of March and conclude competition by May 1.
While the Northeast-10 Conference is ahead of several regional peers in terms of laying out a proposal for their spring athletics, the conference remains fully aware that everything is subject to change in accordance with the behavior of the coronavirus, according to Ruppert.
“I think we’re realistic to know that the virus is still out there, testing difficulties are still out there, affordability of tests is still out there,” Ruppert said. “But right now, the roadblocks aren’t so high that we aren’t committed to keep trying.”
At the Division III level, the NESCAC will not sponsor any athletic competition this winter. Back in March, the conference canceled all spring sports for 2020 on the same day as the Ivy League, March 11.
In the league’s statement about winter sports last Thursday, the conference cited member schools’ COVID-19 policies and the significant modifications many institutions have made to the winter academic calendar as two driving forces behind their unanimous decision to cancel winter competition.
“The timing of students’ return to campus means there will not be enough time to conduct meaningful conference play,” the NESCAC presidents wrote in a press release.
Despite forgoing their winter athletic season, the NESCAC continues to plan for the possibility of spring competition, the release added.
Without making official decisions about athletics next semester, the Northeast Conference said it was considering the idea of conducting fall-sport competition during the spring semester, in a statement released earlier this month reaffirming the NEC Council of Presidents’ decision to postpone fall athletics.
“This course of action now allows us to shift our attention to the future, and work with campus leaders to examine the feasibility of potential competitive options for fall, winter and spring sports that support the well-being of student-athletes, staff and campus communities,” Morris wrote.
Ryan Sakamoto, assistant commissioner of communications for the Patriot League, confirmed that the league has also been actively working towards solidifying a plan for spring athletics. Although no official proposal has been constructed, Sakamoto told the News that he hopes that a conclusion will be reached soon.
“With a little bit of time, hopefully things become a little bit more clear and we can make a decision,” Sakamoto said.
While the ultimate decision rests in the hands of the Patriot League’s 10-member Council of Presidents, Sakamoto said he and the rest of the league office have been closely collaborating with senior administrators and coaches from all of their campuses in order to provide the Council with as much information as possible.
Although many factors, including local and state government regulations that determine travel restrictions and maximum crowd size, play a large role in influencing this decision, Sakamoto said that the health and safety of student-athletes and campus communities at large remains the conference’s highest priority.
“In a position where sports are being played, the assumption is that our student-athletes would be part of a larger campus community,” Sakamoto told the News. “We want to make sure that we’re doing what we can to protect those folks and even people in the surrounding community. I think everything else beyond that is kind of secondary.”
Hartford represents Connecticut in the America East, while Central Connecticut and Sacred Heart are members of the Northeast Conference. Connecticut College, Trinity and Wesleyan play in the NESCAC. Yale plays in the Ivy League.
Trisha Nguyen | firstname.lastname@example.org