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When does a trickle become a stream become a flood?

We may be getting there when it comes to college sports competition this fall, especially in parts of the country where COVID-19 cases are spiking.

Several more conferences from across the competitive landscape announced that they would either not play intercollegiate sports at all this fall or, in the case of the Big East Conference, that it would join other big-time sports leagues like the Big Ten and Pac-12 Conferences in having only intraleague play. The Big East doesn't play football as a conference sport, so the announcement doesn't affect its members' gridiron programs. The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, in Division III, said it would play in-conference only.

The latest conferences announcing that their members would not play sports at all this fall include:

"After putting together a COVID-19 Task Force made up of administrators from each member institution, we thought we had landed on a reasonable plan for resocialization that would have allowed for measured increases of athletic activities upon the arrival of our student-athletes coming out of summer break," said Dwayne Hanberry, the Southern Collegiate conference's commissioner. "However, with recent spikes in cases, especially within our footprint, the decision to suspend competition for fall sports during the fall semester and allow our campuses to focus on the health and safety of all students within a structured environment became the logical outcome."

Other Division I sports conferences appear, for now, to be trying to buy themselves and their members time. Two conferences, the Horizon League and the West Coast Conference, said they would delay sports competition until Oct. 1 and Sept. 24, respectively. The Horizon League said it was doing so to allow "each campus to further focus on ensuring return to competition protocols uphold the Council’s principle of safety and can be reasonably implemented."

In a related matter, the National Collegiate Athletic Association announced a new set of guidelines Thursday about protecting players and preventing community spread of COVID-19 through athletics competition this fall.


Three private colleges that had previously planned to bring students to their campuses this fall have reversed course and will educate their students virtually instead.

Rhodes College, in Tennessee, Pennsylvania's Dickinson College, and Occidental College in Los Angeles said they would not return students to their campuses this fall after all. Marjorie Hass, the president of Rhodes, explained with a "heavy heart" that the health situation in Memphis had worsened and that "facing the facts" was important.

Local health experts, she said, "told us that based on the current facts and trends, we should expect that campus outbreaks of COVID-19 would quickly outpace our ability to provide an appropriately safe environment for our students, faculty, and staff."

Hass also said that while most of Rhodes's expenses stay the same even when students are remote, "we recognize that a remote semester cannot replicate the full on-campus experience." As a result, the college will reduce its tuition to what "was in place in the fall of 2017 when rising seniors matriculated" there, representing a roughly 9 percent reduction in its tuition rate.

Occidental's president, Harry J. Elam Jr., said that the "decision to go remote is one we hoped we would not have to make, and we take little solace in the fact that we are among a growing number of colleges to reach the same conclusion. Still, we are confident that this approach appropriately balances the need to safeguard the collective health and safety of the Occidental community, while enabling our students to continue their education."

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