CLINTON, N.Y. - Hamilton College, along with the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), has announced that it will not hold athletic competition for fall sports in 2020, Friday.
The decision was made unanimously among its 11 conference member school presidents, and comes after a pair member schools, including Bowdoin College and Williams College, had announced they were cancelling their fall sports season individually in previous weeks.
The presidents of all 11 NESCAC schools, including Hamilton College's David Wippman, released a statement, Friday, to announce the decision. It follows, in part:
"In keeping with public health guidance, each of our institutions has put in place physical distancing protocols, limits on travel on and off campus, and limits on the size of on-campus gatherings. Consistent with these policies, the NESCAC Presidents have decided unanimously, though with great reluctance, that NESCAC conference competition for fall sports must be canceled for fall 2020.
"Athletics remains an important part of the experience for our students. Conference members will continue to work together to seek creative ways to provide meaningful athletic opportunities for our students during the upcoming academic year."
Hamilton and the NESCAC will receive guidance from federal, state and local health authorities, as well as, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in order to determine a safe return to play.
"I feel horribly for all of the kids who are heading into their senior year especially, but all of the other kids [as well]," said Jon Hind, Hamilton College Director of Athletics, via Zoom video interview with NEWSChannel 2. "Myself, the administrators, coaches, what we do will keep happening but the window of opportunity for student-athletes is finite and so you feel really badly when they lose any of their opportunities."
Hind said that numerous discussions took place both internally and throughout NESCAC member schools over the past few weeks.
Hamilton College is expecting to have students return to campus for the fall semester, but are putting multiple health and safety protocols in place in order to do so safely.
"To mitigate risk we have really looked at minimizing travel both off-campus and on-campus," Hind said. "When you start to get into conversations about limiting academic field trips and limiting speakers coming to campus, it all of the sudden becomes really difficult to talk about sending teams to Williams [College] or entertaining a team from Trinity [College]."
Hind did say that once students return to campus and are tested for virus, the school plans to offer opportunities for student-athletes on Hamilton's 29 intercollegiate teams to participate in small group outdoor activity, and progress into more formal team practices when conditions allow.
"I hope we're having a lot of activity," said Hind. "I know we'll have to start small. I'm hopeful that [with more robust testing] we can get into larger and larger group activity and eventually, potentially get into more team-like practice settings as time goes by and things are safe."
As of now, no decision has been made regarding the fate of winter or spring sports, however those discussions have already begun with schools awaiting to see what the status of the pandemic will be as the calendar moves into September.
According to Hind, discussions have taken place regarding potentially allowing fall sports to compete in the spring, but that those discussions have been very preliminary with multiple steps necessary to be taken in order to make that possible.
Football, field hockey, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's golf, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's rowing, men's and women's tennis, and volleyball are the Continentals fall sports teams affected by the cancellation.
Those student-athletes will not lose NCAA or NESCAC eligibility, however.
The NCAA announced, Thursday, a blanket waiver has been approved for the 2020-21 academic year that states student-athletes will not charged with a year of participation if their teams are only able to complete 50% or less of their season schedule.
Under this waiver, Continentals student athletes would be able allowed the option to extend their participation beyond their original four-year timeline to allow them to make up for the missed season and maintain the opportunity to play "four meaningful seasons."
Member schools from the NESCAC include Amherst College, Bates College, Bowdoin College, Colby College, Connecticut College, Hamilton College, Middlebury College, Trinity College, Tufts University, Wesleyan University, and Williams College.