Ithaca College has suspended intercollegiate athletics for the Fall 2020 season because of COVID-19 safety concerns.
The Liberty League has also announced its decision to cancel all league competitions and championships through Dec. 31. Susan Bassett, associate vice president and director of the Office of Intercollegiate Athletics, announced the news July 22 during a Zoom call with all fall student-athletes and coaches.
“The health and safety of our students, coaches and entire campus community is our top priority,” Bassett said in an announcement to the campus community. “The measures required to enhance safety, which include social distancing policies, reduced off-campus travel and restrictions on visitors to campus, prohibit our ability to provide intercollegiate athletics competition this fall. We took a thorough, process-oriented approach to our decision-making and were guided by the most current scientific and medical information in reaching this disappointing conclusion.”
Prior to this announcement, the Liberty League planned to begin fall intercollegiate competition no earlier than Sept. 26. The college had not announced an official plan but stated in a separate announcement that it was working with the Liberty League for the safest plan.
The plan for the return of athletic participation includes immediate testing upon return to campus, mandatory daily symptom screenings, dividing athletes who test negative for COVID-19 into smaller practice groups and a two-week quarantine period for those who test positive. There will also be a heavy emphasis on hand hygiene, wearing masks when not participating in intense workouts and physical distancing. Student-athletes will also be required to return documents like a COVID-19 screening form and a mental health screening form.
The fall sports that will be impacted by this decision include men’s and women’s cross–country, crew and sculling, tennis and soccer, along with football, field hockey, volleyball and women’s golf.
“It’s obviously really disappointing to not compete this fall, but this country is trending in the wrong direction with regards to COVID,” said rising senior Chris Singer, a cross-country athlete. “We thought that we had the most talent and depth we’ve ever had before, so the news is really upsetting. At the end of the day, we can only control how we behave and react, not what happens to us externally.”
In an email to the campus community, the college stated that it will determine whether competition will take place in the winter season. Both winter and spring sport student-athletes will have the opportunity to practice and train on campus in the fall. Recreational and club sports will also have the opportunity to engage during the fall semester.
Bassett said that, despite typical NCAA regulations, athletes will be able to retain this season of eligibility even if they participate in team practices. This means that athletes who have not already competed in four seasons will be able to enroll at the college — or at another institution — for an extra semester or year to finish their degrees or begin another one while still competing in athletics.
In its statement, the Liberty League announced that it will be exploring options for fall athletics to compete in the spring.
The college announced previously that students living in any of the states on New York state’s mandatory quarantine list will not be allowed to return to campus until their state is removed from the list. Bassett said this policy will apply to student-athletes as well. Rising junior volleyball player Jordyn Lyn Hayashi said this policy will highly affect her team because of the large number of players from across the country.
“I’m just sad about the outcome of things because I know that other schools are making people from those states just quarantine rather than saying they cannot come back at all,” Hayashi said. “I’m heartbroken because they are my closest friends and basically family, but I know we’re better safe than sorry.”
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Union College were the first two members of the Liberty League to cancel their fall competitions prior to the Liberty League’s decision to cancel all fall competitions. The Empire 8 conference, which includes SUNY Cortland’s football team, also announced its decision to postpone fall athletics to Spring 2021.