BELOIT—The day Beloit College student-athletes and coaches dreaded officially arrived on Monday.
The Midwest Conference joined a wave of NCAA Division III conferences across the nation suspending league competition through Dec. 31 amid concern over the spread of COVID-19.
The MWC’s 10 presidents made the decision, in cooperation with the league’s athletic directors.
Beloit College AD Dave DeGeorge said he expects all the nation’s Division III conferences to follow suit.
In its own release, Beloit College stated: “Although the decision is incredibly disappointing for all of our Buccaneer student-athletes, their health and safety, and that of our campus and local communities, is our top priority.
The fall MWC sports included in the suspension of league competition are men’s and women’s cross country, football, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis and volleyball. Men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s swimming & diving, men’s and women’s indoor track & field are among those winter sports for whom league competition is suspended through Dec. 31.
In its release, MWC Executive Director Heather Benning said the league tried its best to have a fall season.
“We did everything we could over the past couple of months to develop schedules, event management protocols and testing policies so that we could compete this fall,” Benning stated. “However, due to the recent sustained surge of cases across the country, and a lack of guaranteed access to timely and reliable testing with the frequency recommended by the NCAA, the Conference does not feel it is in a position to sponsor intercollegiate athletic competition at this time.”
While there will be no league competition, DeGeorge said that the college remains committed to its student-athletes and plans to continue to provide meaningful opportunities for athletes this fall, including practice opportunities, small-group training, skills development and strength and conditioning.
What that means, however, really is the unknown.
“There has been no time to determine that,” he said. “This decision wasn’t made four or five days ago. The conference presidents made it this morning. I was notified just slightly before 9. My guess is that we want to get people on campus and we want to make sure that everything is OK.
“Once everything is OK on campus and we’re not seeing cases (of the virus), then we can take little steps toward getting teams together. I think weight-training sessions and potentially small-group sessions with teams will be the first things that happen. How much that grows, I don’t know. We are going to move slowly and carefully.”
DeGeorge said competition isn’t the only place where people are going to get sick.
“My guess is that the Miami Marlins players who got sick didn’t get sick on the field,” he said. “They got sick in the dugout or more than likely in the clubhouse or they got sick on the bus. Competition is just one element. Any time you get people together in a group you are at risk.”
According to the MWC, engagement in limited non-conference competition remains at the discretion of individual institutions.
“The first decision we made several weeks ago was that we would not play non-conference,” DeGeorge said. “There is no question. Beloit College will not compete this semester.”
The MWC COVID-19 Working Group will continue to meet and discuss what it might look like to sponsor sports during the spring term, and make recommendations to the Presidents’ Council in the coming months. The MWC will continue to monitor those factors impacting the decision for suspension of the fall and winter sport seasons, and take action to resume athletic competition when it is deemed safe to do so
DeGeorge said that there could be an opportunity for fall sports to have a competitive season in the spring.
“That is a definite possibility,” he said. “We are not only going to consider it, we will make every effort to give our fall athletes some opportunity to compete within this academic year.”