CLINTON, N.Y. - After cancelling spring sports last academic year and fall sports in the current one, Hamilton College has now been forced to forgo its winter sports season as well.
The New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), of which Hamilton is a member, had announced, Thursday, that it would not be holding any conference competition for the winter season.
Shortly following that announcement, the only New York State based NESCAC school made its own announcement that it would not be holding any non-conference competition either.
This decision affects the Continentals men's and women's basketball, men's and women's ice hockey, men's and women's indoor track & field, men's and women's squash, and men's and women's swimming & diving teams.
"I feel really badly," said Jon Hind, Hamilton College Athletic Director. "I sound like a broken record, but once again the seniors in our program who are now on our winter teams, they are so far along in their academic career what are they going to do? It wouldn't make any sense to take a leave and come back for one semester and so they are going to lose their final opportunity compete and that's very unfortunate. I feel bad for them."
Hamilton's decision was based on a variety of factors. In Hind's statement on behalf of the school, he cited the fact that most students will not be on campus in the months of December and January when the majority of the winter season normally takes place.
Students will head home from the fall semester just before thanksgiving and will not return to campus for the spring semester until February. In addition, upon arriving back on campus, many students would have to go through a 14-day quarantine period due to travel restrictions before they could even begin the NCAA phasing requirements to return to full competition.
This would place the timetable to begin the winter season at the end of February, beginning of March at the earliest, when postseason competition usually occurs in those sports.
Issues with student-athletes returning to campus was one of the main components of the determination that a winter sports season was not practice, however, there were many other logistical factors also at play.
"It's not as simple as just athletes returning," said Hind. "It's all of the layers of personnel that are needed to do all of the dormitory cleaning, all of the testing of those student athletes, the feeding of the students and so it's not as simplistic as it's been in the past. So when you put all those factors together it just it made sense that we cancel winter competitions as well."
Though there will be no interscholastic competition this winter, Hamilton College has remained committed to continuing to provide some form of athletic activity for its student body and student-athletes.
Some physical education classes, that allow for proper health and safety protocols to be followed, are still being offered on campus.
Also, much like the school had done with its fall sports programs, it will allow its winter sports teams to participate in practices, strength and conditioning workouts, and individual skill development while following health and safety protocols set forth by the NCAA, NESCAC, school, and state and local health guidelines.
They will phase those in by initially having teams gather in small groups or "pods," and then slowly work into larger group practices.
It may not be the same as having a full season with interscholastic competition, but it has been some form of a consolation for student-athletes forced to miss out on a year of play.
"Our kids have all commented about how thankful they are that they have practice opportunities and that they still have the opportunity to be a member of a team," said Hind. "Obviously everyone misses competing, it's the essence of sport, so everyone misses the competition but at the same time, everyone is thankful for the opportunities that we have."
With fall and winter sports now on the shelf for this academic year, decisions must still be made regarding spring sports. There is still some time left before final determinations will be required, however, under the current landscape, the cards continue to be stacked against resuming play.
"If we're saying we can't have winter sports for all of those reasons and nothing changes, it would be really difficult to have spring sports," said Hind. "We're going to hold out hope though."