The Liberty League that includes St. Lawrence and Clarkson universities has decided to cancel winter sports due to the current COVID-19 pandemic after a vote by the league’s Presidents Council on Monday.
League commissioner Tracy King released a statement that calls off the winter season after fall sports were also nixed earlier in the academic calendar.
Schools were monitoring the situation in the hopes of having some type of interscholastic athletics. However, current conditions surrounding the virus have prevented that.
“The decision to cancel Liberty League competition and championships was made after careful consideration and review of relevant facts and data,” King said. “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.”
Sports impacted include men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s squash, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, and men’s and women’s indoor track and field.
However, the College Squash Association, the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association and the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association have not decided about winter sports.
Clarkson competes in the United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association, and that season status is still unknown.
“I share in your disappointment and want you to know that our priority remains our entire campus community’s health and safety,” St. Lawrence athletic director Bob Durocher said in a letter posted on the school’s website.
The moratorium does not affect Division I men’s and women’s hockey at Clarkson, St.Lawrence and Capital District-based programs Union in Schenectady and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy.
The SLU men are slated to play Niagara University on Nov. 20, according to the Purple Eagles’ website.
The Clarkson men will travel to Lewiston to play Niagara on Dec. 9, while the Clarkson women host Quinnipiac in a two-game set Nov. 28-29. Fans will likely not be allowed to attend games, but most will be broadcast on the ESPN+ platform.
Rochester Institute of Technology became the first men’s and women’s Division I hockey program to cancel the 2020-21 season.
RIT is a member of Atlantic Hockey in men’s and women’s hockey, but plays with St. Lawrence and Clarkson in the Liberty League in other sports. Both Clarkson and St. Lawrence often play RIT in nonconference hockey.
“This was a very difficult decision and we understand the disappointment this brings to our student-athletes and coaches,” RIT president David Munson said in a statement Monday afternoon. “But given the rise in COVID-19 in our community, as well as across the nation and globe, this is the right thing to do for athletes and community safety.”
The conference has been testing and trying to limit the exposure by cutting down on travel off campus, restricted visitors to campus, and implemented strict protocols on masking and physical distancing.
The decision to cancel Liberty League competition does not preclude individual institutions from engaging in student-athlete activities that are conducted in accordance with Division III regulations as well as institutional, state and local health and safety guidelines.
SLU does plan on having intrasquad scrimmages and team activities during the winter sports season.
Teams have been practicing during the fall while not being allowed to play games. There’s also hope that some interscholastic scrimmages and games will be played later on in the winter season.
There’s no update on the status of spring sports, but Durocher said he hopes teams can play in 2021.
Most teams start playing spring sports like baseball, softball and lacrosse in late February or early March.
“We are hopeful that public health conditions will allow our participation in spring sports. However, these discussions have not yet started,” Durocher said.
Sportswriter Dan Mount contributed to this report.