The Liberty League announced Nov. 9 that it will be canceling winter athletic competition because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ithaca College’s men’s and women’s basketball, swimming and diving and indoor track and field are directly affected by the league’s decision. In a statement from the Office of Intercollegiate Athletics, it announced that its wrestling and gymnastics teams will also follow the Liberty League’s decision. Wrestling competes in the Empire College Wrestling Conference and gymnastics competes in the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association’s East Region.
The Liberty League’s statement notes that member institutions may engage in athletic competition that adheres to NCAA Division III, campus, state and local guidelines. Susan Bassett, director of the Office of Intercollegiate Athletics, said in the college’s announcement that it is exploring possible opportunities to still compete locally.
At this time, Division III has not canceled winter championships but has reduced the number of required competitions by 50% and the number of teams participating in playoffs by 25%. The Division III Presidents Council has also announced that student-athletes are able to compete this winter without losing a year of playing eligibility. Senior athletes or those who are in the final semester of their degree may be enrolled as part-time students in the spring semester as long as they are taking major classes and are approved by the institution registrar.
“Ithaca College will continue to monitor the COVID-19 landscape and consider limited, local competition if the situation safely allows,” Bassett stated in the college’s announcement. “Our sports medicine team will lead our comprehensive deliberations in full alignment with the college’s Health and Safety Advisory Group and Public Health Task Force, along with guidelines from the NCAA, [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], New York state and Tompkins County Health Department.”
The Liberty League statement said that members have studied the effects of COVID-19 during the fall semester in order to make this decision. All of the league’s institutions have limited travel, restricted visitors and implemented other safety rules to protect those on the colleges’ campuses and surrounding communities. The statement noted that Liberty League institutions have collectively tested 209,000 people.
“The decision to cancel Liberty League competition and championships was made after careful consideration and review of relevant facts and data,” said Liberty League Commissioner Tracy King. “COVID-19 infection rates continue to increase throughout the country and we have also seen spikes in our college communities, which creates additional challenges for our institutions.”
Ithaca College stated in its announcement that further details about the return to campus for winter athletics will be provided later and that a decision regarding spring athletics will be considered in January or February.