COVID-19 Roundup: More Conferences Cancel Fall Seasons

Six athletic conferences cancel or postpone fall seasons. Hillsdale College defies state attorney general. Citing quarantine order, Ithaca College tells some out-of-staters to start classes remotely.

July 20, 2020
 
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At least six more athletic conferences across various National Collegiate Athletic Association divisions announced on Friday that they were canceling fall conference play or postponing until the spring.

The Colonial Athletic Association on Friday canceled its schedule of conference football play for the fall due to the coronavirus pandemic, but member universities are permitted to pursue an independent football schedule. The CAA teams play in the NCAA's Division I Football Championship Subdivision.

The conference said it would explore the possibility of organizing a football season next spring.

A number of colleges that play football in the conference announced they were suspending fall sports, including football, or postponing the season until the winter or spring. Colleges that made such announcements included the College of William & Mary, in Virginia; the State University of New York at Albany; Towson University, in Maryland; and the Universities of Delaware, Maine and New Hampshire.

Several other conference members indicated they still plan or hope to play fall sports despite the cancellation of conference play. James Madison University, in Virginia, the reigning conference championship and runner-up in the FCS national championship game last season, said it “remains committed to an open exploration of various options for its competitive seasons for all sports in keeping with evolving guidance on health and public safety.”

The America East and Atlantic 10 conferences, both Division I conferences that do not sponsor conference play in football, announced they were postponing all fall sports until the spring. The Atlantic 10 said, however, that its members had agreed to what they described as a “look-in window” in mid-September, “allowing for a potentially truncated competitive schedule amongst conference opponents if the COVID-19 risk has substantially been reduced.”

The East Coast Conference, which is affiliated with the NCAA’s Division II, and two Division III conferences -- the Commonwealth Coast Conference and the North Eastern Athletic Conference -- also announced cancellations of intercollegiate competition for the fall semester.

Several other conferences, including the Ivy League, the New England Small College Athletic Conference and the Patriot League, previously announced cancellation of fall sports. Two football powerhouse conferences, the Pacific-12 and the Big Ten, have said they will only schedule conference games.


In nonathletic news, Hillsdale College, a conservative Christian college in Michigan famous for its refusal to accept government funding, held an in-person graduation ceremony on Saturday in defiance of state Attorney General Dana Nessel, whose office called the event illegal, The Detroit News reported. Outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people are prohibited under executive order in Michigan, where COVID-19 cases are rising.

The ceremony came at the end of three days of festivities including dinners, cocktails, music recitals and a party, according to The Detroit News. The college required attendees to wear masks and took their temperatures. At some events, attendees were seated six feet apart and instructed not to walk around.

Hillsdale defended the legality of its outdoor commencement, saying in a press release issued in advance of the ceremony it was "consistent with the governor’s executive orders providing that you can have these outdoor First Amendment expressive events subject to [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines."

“This is not an act of defiance -- this is totally legal,” Robert Norton, Hillsdale's vice president and general counsel, said in a statement. “Because this is a core First Amendment expressive activity, the governor’s own guidance and the FAQs tell us that it is appropriate for us to be able to hold such an event as this if we follow leading medical guidelines. We’re not only following those guidelines -- we’re exceeding them.”


Ithaca College, a private college in the Finger Lakes region of New York, will not allow students from states on a travel advisory list maintained by New York State to travel to campus until their states are removed from the list, the Ithaca Journal reported. Students who hail from states on the list -- which as of Friday included 22 states -- will have to start classes online.

Under an executive order from Governor Andrew Cuomo, individuals from the 22 affected states must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in New York. Ithaca administrators said they do not have the resources or infrastructure to quarantine the large number of students who would be affected by the quarantine order.

"As a result, we have made the difficult decision that students who have not remained in New York during the summer and whose permanent address is in a state on New York’s mandatory quarantine list will need to take their classes remotely until the state of their permanent address is removed from the New York mandatory quarantine list," Ithaca said in a letter to students and families. "No exceptions will be granted."

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