Mateo Vazquez ’21
Trinity College has cancelled competitive conference sports for the fall 2020 semester, a decision which comes in tandem with an announcement Friday afternoon by the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC’s) that conference competition for the fall would be cancelled in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Director of Athletics Drew Galbraith, in an email to coaches and staff that was later released to students Friday, indicated that “It’s clear that the fall (and likely winter) season of athletic competition will not occur as usual. We will have significantly fewer, if any, competitions in the fall, but we are aiming for physically distanced practices for in and out-of-season sports and robust team activities to engage our student-athletes.”
Alternatives to conference play are permitted under the revised NESCAC rules, according to their statement, and presidents of NESCAC member institutions have assented to modifications of “some NESCAC rules to enable coaches and students to engage in practice and training opportunities outside the traditional season.”
The NESCAC and Trinity decisions follow an announcement earlier this week from the Ivy League that suspended competitive sports in that conference.
While NESCAC conference play has been cancelled, Galbraith did indicate that Trinity “may be able to sponsor limited competition where safety protocols allow. Individual return-to-play protocols around each varsity sport will need to be followed in order to move from team gatherings to practices and then to competitions.” It was not immediately clear who competitions would be between or if individual NESCAC member institutions could schedule their own competitions independently.
The NESCAC plans to keep physical distancing protocols in place, in adherence with public health guidelines as well. Further, NESCAC specified that the decision Friday was in part due to public health guidelines that have placed limitations on travel on and off campus and on the size of on-campus gatherings.
Trinity’s course of action for fall athletics is dependent upon the state of Connecticut’s overall situation regarding cases of COVID-19. Teams at Trinity are still able to practice if they meet state and federal guidelines and are required to follow three phases that will determine how athletes can train during this time.
Phase 1 entails limited work out and practice groups. These limitations require that no more than ten people including coaches are present, all members adhere to social distancing policies, athletes wear masks/face coverings when distancing cannot be maintained, there is no sharing of equipment among players, and training sessions are focused on individual skill work and conditioning. As conditions improve, teams will work towards phase 2 and phase 3, which will entail large group practices and resumed competitions.
Various senior members of Trinity College’s athletic department have told the Tripod that they have been working to design a 10-week fall season based around Phase 1 of the plan, as well as contemplating adjustments as teams move toward phases 2 and 3. Coaches are currently working to coordinate practice times and sessions in order to accommodate ten or fewer people. A rotational schedule may be used in order to accommodate all teams. With much to be done before the students arrive on campus, Director of Athletics Drew Galbraith told the Tripod that the upcoming season will “certainly be different than any fall we have experienced before.”
If competition were to begin again this upcoming season given that all protocols are met in adherence with state and federal guidelines, the NCAA eligibility for players would not be compromised if their team is only able to compete at 50% or less of the sport’s maximum contests/dates of competitions due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This standard is in place for the 2020-2021 season and allows for student athletes to maintain eligibly post-graduation should they choose to continue their athletics and academics at another institution or at Trinity according to Galbraith’s announcement.
Intramural sports will not be offered in the fall “Due to space and safety constraints,” Galbraith added, though the decision is subject to change “if safe practices can be maintained and strong student interest exists.” However, club sports will be offered as permissible with NCAA regulations.
Other changes to fall sports include the absence of pre-season activities, limited access to athletic training services, and restrictions on indoor and outdoor spaces for “captains’ practices.”
It remains uncertain whether fall sports will be permitted to compete in the spring, or if conference competition of anytime will occur in the spring semester, but Galbraith did indicate that a “number of Division III conferences are investigating the possibility of spring competitive seasons in fall sports if no competition is possible this fall.”
Winter sports are currently slated to begin practice on Oct. 15, rather than Nov. 1. Competition will start as early as Nov. 13, if permissible. Winter season athletes, however, are not anticipated to be “on campus between Thanksgiving and the end of December,” while decisions about when athletes may return after winter break have not yet been made.
This is a developing story and the Tripod will continue to update it as more information becomes available.