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The Pacific-12 Conference announced Friday that it would only schedule in-conference athletic events this fall for football, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball. It also said it would delay the start of mandatory athletic activities "until a series of health and safety indicators, which have recently trended in a negative direction, provided sufficient positive data to enable a move to a second phase of return-to-play activities."
The decision follows a similar announcement by the Big Ten, a Power Five conference often aligned with the Pac-12, as colleges confront the difficulties of athletics during the pandemic.
Outside of big-time college athletics, the announcements are even more dramatic. The New England Small College Athletic Conference announced that it is canceling the fall season. California community colleges are doing so as well, and shifting fall sports to the spring.
In addition, Carleton College, a member of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, announced that it would not participate in sports this fall. "Sports play an important role in the Carleton experience for many students, but due to health and safety concerns, our varsity, club, and other athletic sports teams and organizations will not be able to participate in traditional competition this fall. The risks associated with regular travel and contact with students from other schools are too great, both to our athletes and coaches, and to our campus community," said a college statement.
Dan McKane, commissioner of the Minnesota conference, said via email, "The MIAC Councils have planned meetings over the next week to review fall athletics. We have built a full plan that allows for competition and addresses if institutions opt to not play this fall. I feel our window to play fall sports is narrowing with the recent NCAA recommendation for weekly testing of high risk sports. Testing is not readily available, test results are slow, and currently tests are costly."
The Pac-12 announcement quoted the commissioner, Larry Scott, as saying, “The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports continues to be our number one priority. Our decisions have and will be guided by science and data, and based upon the trends and indicators over the past days, it has become clear that we need to provide ourselves with maximum flexibility to schedule, and to delay any movement to the next phase of return-to-play activities.”
Michael Schill, Pac-12 CEO Group chair and president of the University of Oregon, said, "Competitive sports are an integral part of the educational experience for our student-athletes, and we will do everything that we can to support them in achieving their dreams while at the same time ensuring that their health and safety is at the forefront."
In addition to Oregon, the members of the Pac-12 are Arizona State, Oregon State and Stanford Universities, the University of Arizona; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Colorado; the University of Southern California; the University of Utah; the University of Washington; and Washington State University.
The combination of the Pac-12 and Big Ten decisions affects other institutions, too. The University of Notre Dame lost three games in its season: against the Pac-12's Stanford and USC and against the University of Wisconsin at Madison of the Big Ten.
A statement by the NESCAC presidents said, "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. To that end, the presidents have agreed to modify some NESCAC rules to enable coaches and students to engage in practice and training opportunities outside the traditional season, in accordance with the rules of each member institution and local health directives."
NESCAC colleges are Amherst, Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, Connecticut, Hamilton, Middlebury, Trinity (Conn.) and Williams Colleges and Tufts and Wesleyan Universities.
The University of Bridgeport also announced cancellation of its fall athletic season.
"Though we are understandably disappointed for our student-athletes, coaches, staff, university community and fans, we believe that this decision is in the best interest of maintaining as safe and healthy an environment as possible on our campus. As always, the number one priority remains the safety and well-being of all members of our campus community," said a university statement. "Athletics aid for student-athletes for the upcoming 2020-21 year will be honored."
And the Board of Directors of the California Community College Athletic Association announced that it had approved a plan "providing a return to intercollegiate athletics for the 2020-21 academic year that shifts all sports, including football, to the spring season."
The Middle Atlantic Conference announced that it will aim "for a fall athletics competition, with each campus formulating plans for resocialization that will comply with local, state and NCAA guidelines. Competition will be limited to MAC institutional members beginning no earlier than September 18, 2020, and with the goal of reaching NCAA minimums in all sports."
The conference's members are Albright College, Alvernia University, Arcadia University, Delaware Valley University, DeSales University, Eastern University, Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham Campus, Hood College King's College (Pa.), Lebanon Valley College, Lycoming College, Messiah University, Misericordia University, Stevens Institute of Technology, Stevenson University, Widener University, Wilkes University and York College of Pennsylvania.
Friday's developments followed a week in which the Ivy League and the Centennial Conference called off the fall sports season.
Meanwhile, at universities that have not called off sports, there were more announcements on the impact of COVID-19.
Clemson University announced that four athletes and two athletics department employees tested positive for COVID-19, on top of the 37 football players who already have the virus. In contrast, the University of Michigan said that four athletes have tested positive. And at the University of Maryland at College Park, nine athletes tested positive for the coronavirus.
The impact is also being felt financially. Florida State University announced a 20 percent cut in its athletic budget, reported The Orlando Sentinel. Officials cited declines in football ticket sales and donations.
“I am personally heartbroken over the impact this pandemic has had on our employees, and I am disappointed that I must give you this discouraging news today,” Florida State athletics director David Coburn wrote in a letter sent to all athletics department employees Friday. “However, I am sure you have seen that other athletic departments around the country are also making reductions.”