WKTV - In a year that has already seen so much taken away in the local sports scene, the latest casualty is the MVCC vs. Herkimer rivalry on the court.
On Tuesday, 27 out of 30 community colleges within the SUNY system around the state, that are members of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), collectively announced the cancellation of winter sports deemed high-risk for the 2020-21 season.
"The initial reaction [to this decision] is how we feel for the student-athletes and coaches who have put so much time, energy and effort into [getting ready]," said Donald Dutcher, Herkimer College Dean of Students and Director of Athletics. "When the final decision was made, I agree on the timeline of how it was made so we could at least inform these student-athletes early and let them know in fairness to them."
For Mohawk Valley and Herkimer, this cancellation applies to basketball, dance/cheerleading, and volleyball.
Wrestling is another sport included in the list of cancellations for schools that offer it.
The decision only affects the 27 SUNY community colleges involved, the NJCAA has not made a decision to cancel winter sports nationwide at this time.
Though high-risk winter sports have been canceled, the 27 institutions made the determination that they would continue competition for low- to moderate-risk winter sports such as bowling, and swimming & diving, in a virtual setting under specific COVID-19 protocols.
According to Dutcher, there were a lot of issues discussed between athletic directors and presidents from the SUNY community colleges. He said that first and foremost was the safety and well-being of student-athletes, coaches, officials and game staff members.
Other factors were the cost and implementation of adequate testing programs, travel risks, and difficulties with distancing and capacity limits for high-risk indoor sporting events.
Despite not being able to hold interscholastic competition, as it was with fall sports, schools are attempting to come up with ways to provide their student-athletes with a meaningful athletic experience this school year.
"What we want to do here at Herkimer is still be able to practice, but maybe treat it like a prep year," said Dutcher. "Our buildings [on campus] are going to be open and you can have team study halls, you can still practice with the team, we can even film the team practices because a lot of our student-athletes transfer on (to four-year schools), so we can really hone in on your individual film. So we are working on coming up with different things to entice those student-athletes to come back in the spring and be here in even though they are going to be in a practice only mode."
NJCAA student-athletes whose seasons are canceled this academic year will not lose a year of athletic eligibility, allowing those who wish to return the chance to develop more this year while still enjoying their full remaining eligibility beginning next year.
No decision has been made yet regarding the spring sports season, however NJCAA regional directors meet weekly and have been coming up with tentative plans in preparation for spring sports being played.
The regional directors will be meet with a council of community college presidents on Jan. 11 to discuss those plans and the current state of the pandemic. A decision is expected shortly after.
"I'm really optimistic about baseball, softball and soccer being able to be played because they are outside," said Dutcher. "I think our biggest challenge for those high-risk [winter] sports was that they're indoors."
Previously, the decision was made to move soccer within from the fall to the spring this academic year for NJCAA teams to allow for more developments and preparation as the pandemic wore on.
Stay with NEWSChannel 2 for updates regarding further decisions.