The Importance Of The Next 15-30 Days

_big_a16DO2F2756By the end of June we should have clarification on what the fall sports landscape will look like. One thing is for certain, it will not be what everyone was expecting 5 months ago. For some schools, it  may well depend on political decisions made in state capitols. For Lafayette, June the 15th was the date set by the administration several weeks ago to clarify actions for the fall.

This will be both a fiscal and medical decision, which may result in a hybrid compromise.  In the last several days, Pennsylvania and in particular Northampton County’s numbers have improved to a point that the County has been moved to a less sever “yellow status” and a “green status” by the fall is very likely.  We have learned that the virus has less serious, even small consequences for the student population, but the concern would be for an elder and vulnerable faculty or staff members. All students of course will come from environments that may be more or less risky.

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Ana Steps takes control against Temple

The tricky thing for athletic administrations will be in scheduling across a diverse geography and to take into account the fiscal consequences of road travel and other expenses. Division 2 teams have already had their maximum number of games reduced in field hockey and other sports. Division 1 has had no such restriction, but coaches are wrestling with schedules that may not hold for the fall. For example, will Michigan be able to open under present restrictions? The president of the University of Michigan has already stated he doubted  any sports will be played come September. Ohio, on the other hand has a governor committed to see all schools opening and their Covid statistics support it.

The Patriot League is a regional League and I would expect little disruption to League schedules at least, but perhaps some adjustment, I expect, will be made for out of conference games. I do realize that lockdowns in Boston and Massachusetts maybe a factor, as well as in DC, and might interfere in that view, but I expect they will open, given the proclivity of neighboring states.

I have heard from other schools, of the possibility of dropping games that require plane trips, and traveling with a smaller traveling squads. Schools with small endowments especially will be fighting for survival. ( MacKinsey estimates as many as 1,000 smaller schools will face extinction). The A-10 has already announced a bifurcated league which raises the question as to how the schedule is filled out after canceling in- conference games. The MAC has reduced its post season tournaments.

One wonders how the California field hockey playing schools will fare. The California Public School system will be closed including its public university system. One wonders, since the Governor recently opened up the state, including the barber shops and Salon’s, how closing the schools makes any sense.

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Grace Angelella surveys the field against Temple

My conversations around Lafayette is that all really want to open in the fall, for fiscal as well as educational reasons. Another semester of virtual learning will probably see a surge in gap semesters which would have a deleterious fiscal effect for the year and in the future.

Many schools, like UNC and other southern schools, have opted for earlier openings, which makes sense since the semester would end before the fall flu season is in full bloom. Inexplicably, Ithaca College is  opting for an October opening, which seems to me to be not well thought out.

Some larger universties have asked the NCAA to allow them to drop below the 16 sport limit to remain in Division One and some have dropped some sports, both I believe is not in the long term interest of schools or prospective student athletes. ODU, Cincinnati, Furman and others taken this road. I believe most of the sports cut were already on the block and  Covid was the excuse.

Since the US Team and all high performance tournaments are shut down it’ll be interesting to see how this changes the skill and preparation levels of Division one this fall.

I predict that Lafayette will be open in the fall, and sports ( with some alteration in schedules) will be played. I would hope that the opening would be pushed ahead to allow the semester to end earlier. We should be getting clarifications by June 15.

NCAA Makes First Moves To Open Fall Sports

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Hanna Lewis challenges Lehigh defender

Yesterday, the NCAA Division One Council discussed the existing moratorium on voluntary workouts on campus. Expiration of the moratorium expires at the end of the month looks to be in the works as many college leaders are moving to let fall sports open and played in some form in the fall.

Purdue, UNC, Notre Dame and South Carolina are among the schools moving towards opening their campus.’ The most recent opening came this week with the Florida State system announcing plans for its 12 schools and 420,000 students to return to class. In each case campus presidents have said they expect football season to commence, albeit possibly earlier than normal.

Fans however might expect stadium seating to be restricted to a smaller amount in the giant stadiums of the large schools. Scott Woodard, the athletic director at LSU expects the national champions on the campus after the May 31 ending of mandated closure.

Some schools have already cut some sports to save money and Division 2 schools made a decision yesterday to cut the number of game by 33 percent. Field Hockey will now only be allowed a maximum of 14 games with a minimum of 12 to qualify for NCAA post season play. Football at the Division 2 level will be permitted  the minimum number of  5 games and 7 games to be eligible for playoffs. They can play 10 games.

On the Division one side the NCAA lifted the moritorium for football and basketball players effective June 1. The decision on other sports is not yet decided. Schools are planning to allow social distancing in strength and conditioning spaces by limiting population in one space and moving equipment to other spaces.

The FIH is still not planning to return to play until a vaccine is available.

The wheels are starting to turn, but still, we will need clarification from state governments and respective  leagues to get certainty on the way forward. So ladies, my advice is to start running!!!!

A-10 Modifies Schedules Of Seven Sports, Five Women’s And Two Men’s Sports

The Atlantic 10 concluded its annual spring meetings and discussed key issues facing athletic departments this fall in light of the Covid 19 pandemic. The changes made are only effective for the 20-21 season. The sports affected are field hockey, volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer, baseball, softball and women’s lacrosse. The decisions approved were to “regionalize and condense,” conference schedules by 25% in the sports mentioned above to “ensure a safer environment, minimize travel and missed class time and conserve cost.” In addition, six of the sports will convert to a four team tournament environment. Field Hockey already is a four team tournament.

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Molly Mcandrew chases down VCU opponent

It is still unclear how that may apply to a disparate field hockey league that includes, St. Joseph’s, Lock Haven, Richmond, Umass, VCU, La Salle, St Francis, Davidson and St.Louis. There was some reporting that the league would split into two divisions by region. This would require that schools in each division would have to schedule out of conference games regionally to meet the 16 game requirement to make the NCAA tournament.

I am sure other conferences will also have to contend with different state and local rules that may eliminate games altogether. For example could a Michigan play any games within the existing rules, or a Harvard, Holy Cross, or Boston University under rules in Massachusetts or Boston?  Currently Lafayette and Lehigh are in Northampton and Lehigh Counties which are classified as Red regions in Pennsylvania, while Bucknell is in a yellow region under less stringent rules.

I will try to keep up with the change as they occur. but most certainly coaches and administrators are waiting for decisions out of their control. What is certain what was assumed in January is not for certain. I expect decisions will have to be made by mid to late June!!

Addendum:

It occurred to me after I wrote this that conferences could schedule to play regional in- conference opponents twice to fill up the schedule. This was the format for the ACC 20 years ago!! One game will count for league standing and the other game is a game that has no league consequences!!

Mac Eliminates Conference Tournaments For Eight Sports..Including Five Women’s Sports

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Anna Steps gets by a Lehigh defender

You will remember last season when the Kent State administration decided to end a Field Hockey game prematurely to have pre game football fireworks. Well, Kent State and its colleagues have decided to eliminate post season tournament games for the next FOUR YEARS, as a cost savings measure. The sports affected are Baseball, Softball, Mens and Women’s Soccer, Men’s and Women’s Tennis, Women’s Lacrosse, and Field Hockey. In case you’re counting since the MAC leadership hasn’t, that is a majority of women’s sports.

MAC members include Miami of Ohio, Kent State, Ohio University, Longwood, Ball State, App State,, and Central Michigan.

Overtime game with Syracuse

On another topic, the Michigan governor has stated that schools will most likely be closed this fall. So according to the NCAA if there are no students on campus there will be no sports. If that dictum holds there are number of field hockey playing schools  looking for opponents to fill their schedules.

On the positive side, last night the Pennsylvania Education Department said the schools will open in the fall. Given that Lafayette can provide protocols that meet state standards we should see our women on the turf this September. Who is on the schedule might be a more interesting question. Could we see Big Ten Schools, Penn State, Rutgers, Maryland added as close in opponents?? I hope so. We shall see how that develops.

NEW ANNOUNCEMENT

The College has announced the athletic awards (Pardees) originally scheduled for May 22  have been rescheduled for July 31 at 4 pm at the Williams Center, one day before commencement.  Is this another indication fall sports are a go!!  I think so! We’ll see what happens at the league level!!

I hope I am not being overly optimistic!!

So What Happens Now??

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To open or not open is a jump ball!!

It’s been nearly two months since the original quarantine orders were promulgated by state authorities, followed by or preceded by a shut down of college and university classes. Everyone, leaped to embrace “distance” learning, probably believing it would be a short, tolerable detour. Then came the return of room and board fees, and all of the sudden, the crisis became a fiscal, as well as an educational reality. The question now is how, and when is the restart, and who decides? It’s not a comfortable place for the academe, whose leaders are used to teaching fact and peer reviewed hypothesis. This is now about real survival in some cases, physical as well as fiscal.

There have been conversations, with the help of a myriad of electronic media, to interest groups, but one thing is clear, there is no certainty on how to proceed, and I believe the hope is  someone else will make a decision. Lafayette President Byerly just delivered a Town Hall electronic meeting to alumni, backed up by her cabinet officers…. and the path to opening is still obscure. In yesterday’s meeting, I did note one interesting bit of information, it is clear a decision by Lafayette can not wait until Sept 1st, and the Lafayette president said that some decisions need to be made by June 15, to allow for plans to proceed for the fall.

AD Sherytta Freeman was equally unsure in a recent interview on Go Leopards  as she and the other ADs have been waiting for the leadership to give an indication if there will be on campus learning this fall or not. One thing is clear…there will be no sports if there are no face to face classes!!

McKinsey and Company see three scenarios going forward, first, rapid and effective control, where the virus is contained with instruction resuming in the fall. Programs are disrupted through the summer, but the 20-21 school year operates almost normally, with new health controls, but with disruption to International school enrollment.

The second scenario is that there is an effective response, but with regional virus resurgence. Teaching resumes online in the fall, resulting in a major decline in auxiliary revenues, programs with strong brands and online capabilities stand to gain enrollment amid a spike in attrition and switching.

The third scenario is a broad failure of public health intervention and pandemic escalation. Online learning continues, with face to face instruction resuming in 2021. Some programs operate online only for the first full semester, and there will be continued switching of schools and disruption to international student enrollment. In this third scenario, 43 percent of 4 year not for profit colleges will suffer a greater than 20 percent reduction in revenues. Ten percent will have a 5-10% reduction.

Both President Byerly’s comments and in private conversations I have had with both Lafayette officials and others at competing institutions seem to be cognizant of the three scenarios. However, we are in an environment of the survival of the fiscally fit. Lafayette had an endowment before the virus of about 850 million and has moved to strengthen its cash reserves. No college or university can escape the inevitable cost cutting that will need to be done. The declines in endowment values will have a more permanent impact on future years, and  philanthropy, in an era of 14-18 pct unemployment, will be adversely effected In addition, the willingness of students and parents to pay high tuition, room and board will constrain future enrollment in an environment already predicted to show declines in college age students entering the market.

What does it mean for sports?? I have been in contact with several coaches and administrators  all around the country and they are equally conflicted. Ideas are abundant, ranging from moving seasons to the next semester, to restricting schedules to a more cost effective regional structure.

A large concern will be how many students will want to take a gap semester, not wanting to deal with learning over a computer. Lafayette will take on 715 students in this year’s freshman class after dipping into the wait list and appeals pool already!!  The summer melt of freshmen that usually happens every year has not happened yet. One half of the class was early decision, before the Covid Crisis. Capital construction may slow and other expense reductions or revenue enhancements will have to be found. Clearly there is no “silver bullet,” available.

On a more permanent basis, I could see sports like field hockey using their regional strength to schedule in a 350 mile radius and a weakening of ties to larger more national conferences. I can see those larger conferences concentrating on the larger revenue important sports like football and basketball.

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Sophie Carr is on the ball!!

I was impressed with President Byerly’s assertion in her town hall, of the importance of co-curricular activities like sports in the residential college setting. For the Patriot League , basically a regional Division one conference, I see it surviving and thriving as they stick to their mission of  serving true”student-athletes.”

However, how the larger schools treat their non- revenue sports will have an interesting impact on future schedules, and perhaps to schedules this fall. Could we see in our field hockey schedule , a Rutgers or Princeton, and seeing more of Monmouth, Rider and Columbia??? It is not out of the question.

Who will be the first to jump and commit to a fall season…Maybe we find out more on June 15.!!!