WKTV - There will be no NCAA Division III champions crowned for any fall sports in the 2020-21 academic school year.
The Division III Presidents Council announced, Wednesday, that it has decided to cancel fall championships citing health and safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic, as well as, related administrative and financial challenges that the situation has created.
This decision comes after the NCAA Board of Governors directed each division to make individual determinations regarding its fall sports championships.
Divisions I and II have yet to announce a decision and have until August 21 to do so.
There are eight sports that compete for national championships in the fall including football, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's cross country, field hockey, women's volleyball, and men's water polo.
"Looking at the health and safety challenges we face this fall during this unprecedented time, we had to make this tough decision to cancel championships for fall sports this academic year in the best interest of our student-athlete and member institutions," said Tori Murden McClure, chair of the Presidents Council and president at Spalding. "Moving forward, we will try to maximize the championships experience for our winter and spring sport student-athletes, who unfortunately were short-changed last academic year."
Division III conferences are tasked individually with the decision of holding at least some form of a fall sports season for its member schools, as well as, conference championships.
Even if individual conferences do decide to go that route and hold fall sports at another time this academic year, there will be no NCAA championship events for those sports.
"Our Championships Committee reviewed the financial and logistical ramifications if Division III fall sports championships were conducted in the spring and found it was logistically untenable and financially prohibitive," said McClure. "Our Management Council reached the same conclusion."
In addition, with so many conferences still undecided regarding the future status of its fall seasons, there may not have been a large enough field nationally to make holding NCAA championships worthwhile.
"Honestly there was no one left to play," said Hamilton College Director of Athletics, Jon Hind. "I think the latest read I had the other day was that Division III was down to two conferences. As of a week ago, there were only 10 conferences around the country out of almost 50 who were still trying to play. It just wasn't going to work."
Thus far, all local colleges have had their fall seasons postponed or cancelled by their respective conferences.
The Empire 8 conference, in which Utica College and Hartwick College are members, and SUNY Morrisville is an affiliate for football, has already announced its intention to hold some form of fall sports competition during the spring semester.
David Fontaine, Utica College Director of Athletics and Empire 8 First Vice President, said the conference does plan to hold championships for those fall sports.
According to Hind, the NESCAC, in which Hamilton College is a member, has not made a decision regarding playing fall sports in the spring, but that the option is still on the table and being discussed.
"The ship that has sailed is thinking about full seasons for all of the fall sports," said Hind. "That would just be too much of an overlap and too much of a strain on support staff [in the spring]. But we're definitely in discussion about what would it look like and how we could potentially pull together shortened seasons for our fall sports in the spring."
In regards to winter sports, Hind said that the NESCAC has decided not to hold conference competition in any sport until the second semester, after the calendar year changes.
The conference has given its member schools the option to hold non-conference winter competition prior to the winter break, but Hamilton has decided not to do so.
In order to return to play, the NCAA is requiring all member institutions to apply the resocialization principles, a set of criteria it has set forth to resume athletic activity.
A previous Division III waiver will allow all student-athletes whose team is unable to play 50% of its maximum allowed contests to retain a season of NCAA eligibility.
That may soften the blow for some, but not all will necessarily choose to go that route.
"You play for conference seeding, you would love to win the conference championships," said Hind. "Then its just making it in. It's the joy of making it into the NCAA where you know you have a chance and anything can happen, and you get to chase that elusive title. I feel really badly for the kids who are losing that."