NESCAC cancels competitions for winter sports

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Varsity teams will not compete this winter, President Maud S. Mandel and Athletic Director Lisa Melendy announced in an all-campus email this afternoon, half an hour after the presidents of the 11 NESCAC institutions released a unanimous decision to cancel competitions within the conference.

While the NESCAC’s announcement allows individual colleges to “schedule outside competition at their discretion,” Mandel and Melendy said that the College would not hold even non-conference competitions. They cited concerns that the travel and gathering inherent to intercollegiate athletic competition would be unsafe, especially since flu season may compound the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We postponed the decision as long as possible in the hope that the outlook would improve, but have regretfully decided that we cannot in good faith encourage students to come back to compete,” the email reads.

Even without today’s decision, the academic calendar would have made it difficult for winter athletes to compete, since most students have to leave campus by Thanksgiving. And with Winter Study being canceled and the start date for the spring semester likely being Feb. 15 — about two weeks later than usual — athletes would not have been on campus for most of what would have been the winter season. 

Mandel and Melendy’s email noted that winter teams may still practice under public health guidelines as fall teams have been doing, although the “details and timing are yet to be determined.”

“It is also too early at present to make a decision about spring sports,” the email noted. “We will continue to track the public health situation with the conference and our peer schools, so will announce a plan once it is possible to do so with confidence.”

Niki Srivastava ’23 of women’s squash said that although she had been expecting the winter sports season would be canceled, today’s email was still disappointing.

“I had kind of prepared myself mentally and emotionally — and physically,” she said. “But I had had a glimmer of hope.”