Where Is The Next Miracle Coming From?

 

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Last night, my wife and I watched the movie “Miracle,” about the 1980 gold medal run from our Olympic Ice Hockey Team. The parallels were disturbing. The country and the world was caught in a malaise, as President Carter described it. There were Americans being held hostage in Iran, gas prices were in the stratosphere, if you stood in line for hours to get it. Inflation was out of control, and we in the midst of a presidential election. Maybe its time for all of us to at least cinematically relive the moment.

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The iconic game between the US and the Soviet Union became a fixation for America. The Soviet Union was the best team in the World, having even beaten a team of NHL all stars. The US team was not the “dream” team we are now accustomed to today, but a team of 21 year old college players picked more for their ability to mix as a team rather than those that had individual skills. In the movie, the players were asked by their coach to describe themselves, they answered by their name and college team played for. Near the end of the film, they described themselves rather as a player for the USA.

I mourn for the athletes of today for missing the experience of being a team. But I also mourn for the people in the stands who identify with the “team.” It must be hard for people to imagine the uplift that game was for the United States at that time. The chants of USA USA still echo in the back of my mind as I sadly watch the news today!!

I have always liked team sports over individual sports, and encouraged my own children to play at least one team sport to experience the shared efforts towards a goal. I believe the need is still here in our country and the world, unfortunately I believe our college leaders have either  forgotten or never understood that need for a civilized society. Maybe this pause will be short lived, but in the interim we have lost something important in the life and soul in our world. Sad.

 

You Can Put A Fork In It!

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Anna Steps gets by a Lehigh defender

The last hopes of any kind of fall season evaporated last week as more conferences announced, ” suspensions, postponements, and cancellations” basically putting an end to any reasonable championship season this fall. The NCAA administrators have yet to come out of their bomb shelter to give any leadership regarding a spring season much less any other guidance besides occasional medical socialization suggestions. I suppose they are ducking any confrontation with the football playing power five as the hundreds of millions at stake for those schools seems to be at risk.

Technically, it looks like it’s still possible for the ACC and Big Ten to play each other in field hockey,  but I expect that will make the fall season look like a weak ghost of a spring season. Speaking of the spring, it looks as though that is still possible but there is no coordinated effort to organize it as a regular season. There is speculation everything will be moved to the spring, but how that is done with some schools  having smaller student populations making it difficult to field any sort of team. Princeton for example will have only seniors in residence this spring.

I still wish all the leagues would have waited for a final decision later in the summer, but I get the feeling the people running the place wanted the athletic question off the table as they tackle the problem of virtual vs real life instruction during the school year. At Lafayette it appears it will be a hybrid of sorts. Questions still remain about extensions of eligibility, scholarship issues, and gap years for incoming freshman. My own research from senior officials at Lafayette is that extensions for a fifth year will be allowed, even under current Patriot League rules.

Will basketball be played??!! Not likely, since play inside an enclosed area are more problematic than an outside event. If the spring is an option for fall sports how will support resources be allocated???

This disruption may cause a major restructuring of higher education, as I am hearing of  schools with strong brands are opening up, “virtually” for a larger number of  students. This is definitely happening right now, at the graduate level. It brings in revenue while making, for the first time, higher education more efficient. It won’t be long before that business model creeps into the undergraduate level, reducing those 75,000 dollar price tags. In athletics, we have already seen some reduction in the number of sports being offered. We might see more regional conference structures on a sport by sport basis. The Patriot League seems well positioned, but should be open to accept new members on a sport by sport basis!

Interesting times!!

Patriot League and Patriot League Schools Struggle With Season Cancellation Consequences

We “may” have fall sports compete in the spring, was a simple enough phrase, however, the entire list of consequences of moving fall sports to the spring to student athletes, whether they are beginning their hoped for athletic journey, or ending, after after three years of hard work deserve answers. I was asked a question by a player from another Patriot League School, about the league extending a fifth year to those players losing a season.  The NCAA has allowed the fifth year, but what is the League position? A senior athletic official in a PL school said to me the League rules state that for situations beyond the control of a student athlete, a fifth year will be allowed. That official opined COVID would fall into that category, and student athletes should consult their compliance officers regarding that action.

There a myriad of other questions that deserve to be answered sooner, rather than later:

1. In a fifth year will scholarships be continued, and the NCAA needs to answer whether will scholarship team limits be relaxed?

2. In the event the Ivy and Patriot League are the only Division One schools to halt fall sports,  will spring practice and competition rules be demanded by the NCAA?

3. If an athlete decides to transfer, will the one year waiting transfer rule be enforceable?

4. Will gap years be permitted for all athletes?

The implications of the Patriot League and the Ivy League being the only Leagues without fall competition, begs the question as to who they will play and when. For individual schools, how will resources be rationed. ( Training personnel, field time on sites that host multiple sports, and priorities associated with weather and wear and tear on fields).

Each school has different resources to bring to the table not everyone has 40 plus billion dollars in endowment like Harvard.

I still believe this was a hasty, ill considered action by the Patriot League presidents. If it was well considered, those answers to the above questions would be readily available. They should have waited for the rest of Divison one ( especially the ones sponsoring Olympic sports ) to come to a considered solution. There was. no reason to be the second through the door with no one behind you!

Ok Now What……Again

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I kind of wear my opinions on my sleeve, so if you have been reading my articles you’re probably going to know how I feel about the cancelling of fall sports. First of all the unanimity of the Patriot League decision is a myth. There are 12 football playing schools in the conference, four have decided to continue with fall “olympic” sports, Army, Navy, Georgetown, and Fordham. Army and Navy as full members will continue all sports, Georgetown is a member of the Big East and they will continue their olympic sports in  that league and Fordham is in the A-10 and will play all sports except football this fall.

So if the situation were so dire and obvious about having a soccer or field hockey game this fall why, are these schools deciding to play on outside of the league?  Now, I may be proven wrong but recent testing by schools, especially in the Northeast are getting favorable results ( eg. UConn reported yesterday O cases out of 200 tested). Even those who had reported cases, those persons are isolated and recovering, showing the wisdom of the 6 week “resocialization” period prescribed by the NCAA.

Getting back to Field Hockey, if the Patriot League and the Ivy League remain as the only conferences not playing this fall, there will be a NCAA tournament with most likely 3 open slots in the 16 team field for that championship tournament.

That leaves the spring. There are still regulations in place that would NOT allow a full practice and game schedule this spring. So who would the IVY and Patriot League play in that case? How many athletes would choose a gap year rather than a half hearted spring season? Would the Patriot League allow red shirt years for athletes that choose to sit it out? Would scholarship limits be adjusted to account for those returning players and a new freshman class??

The Patriot League should have either left participation up to the individual school or moved the reporting  date back to allow for resocialization to take place and time to reassess the risks. I do realize there would be some additional expense involved and maybe that’s the real crux of the decision?!

PL To Cancel All Fall Sports

In a message to supporters AD Sherrytta Freeman confirmed early reports that ALL fall sports will be cancelled. She did hold out the chance that some sports could be played in the spring…..I would not hold your breath.

Several weeks ago the League published a plan to return to the fields this fall. Apparently , the League presidents..after more consideration decided otherwise. It’s sad day!! Unclear whether the service academies will follow along!!

 

Addendum: Service academies will continue to play all fall sports!!! UCONN opened and tested over 150 athletes…all negative for the virus. HUH!!!

Ivies Do The Expected And Cancel Sports And Stanford Drops Field Hockey Forever

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The Ivy League did the expected and dropped their entire fall athletic season. The move was anticipated, since they were only allowing a partial return to actual residence at their institutions . So for 50 grand plus,  parents, for the most part will have their kids get their Ivy League education at the kitchen table. It’s hard to see how a winter and spring season will follow with only partial attendance to continue. Meanwhile, other Conferences and schools prepare to open in the fall, with no doubt, an abbreviated schedule.

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Molly McAndrews eludes a VCU defender

I look locally where, flexible plans are prepared for local schools, postal workers, daycare centers, grocery stores and others are working together in the real world, with some adjustment to keep this country going!! Pam and I went to our local gym where many accomodations were made for safe attendance.  Not so much for the supposed brightest in the Ivy space apparently!! I understand  faculty did take a large role in the decision. Unlike the rest of the world, I wonder if they expect to be paid for not teaching…..of  course they do!! So far the Patriot League has stood tall and resisted Ivy Envy.  Here is a quote from the AD at West Point ) a Patriot League member, ” There is no option for our cadet athletes to extend or make up for lost time in sports . If we can do so safely, I will do everything within my power to ensure they get that opportunity.”

On another sad note, Stanford permanently dropped 11 sports, including field hockey. It’s hard to see the other two west coast division one schools continuing on. They will play one last season this fall “like normal,” and honor all scholarships.

There was no official word from the Patriot League, and I would hope the coaches are busily rearranging schedules to see where a new match is located on an already fractured scheduling sheet. No Ivy envy so far!!!

 

Now What.. Whose On First??

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Last week added to my confusion to the plans for the fall season, and makes one wonder…. does anyone know with precision what’s in store for fall college competitive athletics?  At nine am on Friday, I was in contact with a friend who was in a position to know!!! ” We are definitely playing the fall season in line with the Patriot League guidelines, which states a Sept 4 start.,”he said. At 11:15 ESPN comes across with an article that the Lafayette/Navy football game on Sept 12 was cancelled. Then I get an email from the AD Sherytta Freeman confirming the game was cancelled, followed by a posting on goleopards  that says no sports will be played according to NCAA guidelines before Sept.18.

Back to my friend, ” At nine you were worried that we were canceling the season..so we are still playing.”he said.  After the requisite sigh, ” Didn’t we know about NCAA guidelines before the PL start date was set for Sept 4,”I remarked. I think there was an electronic shrug at the other end of the line.

I looked up the “guidelines,” which I think were promulgated in May. It is a recommendation for a phased in approach in 3 two week segments. It was additionally calculated ( by Patriot League “guidelines”) with a return date for athletes calculated to coincide with the return of all students. According the goleopards announcement, that return is August 8th.

This whole episode reminds me of the Abbot and Costello routine of “Whose on First.” It was a confusing diatribe, where it was hard to keep track of the players who had confusing names associated with the position they held. The NCAA says one thing, the Patriot League says another, not coordinating with each other. As of this date  none of the Patriot League schools seem coordinated. Holy Cross plans to start August 30 which should mean that they can’t play until Mid -October, Fordham has a game with Hawaii which according PL guidelines should not be played….it is still on the schedule. Bucknell and Lehigh  have pre September 18 football  games with Villanova still posted. Both schools have the same start date as Lafayette.

International students from Europe might have to take circuitous routes back and forth from the United States because of travel restrictions. The subject of fan attendance at games has not been revealed. The NCAA has enforced a “black out” period for face to face contact with recruits. Coaches are scrambling to rearrange schedules, first with the September 4 date in mind now it is the September 18 date in force at Lafayette.

On July 8 the Ivy League will probably announce the cancellation of fall sports, leaving additional holes in already decimated schedules.

Is there a difference between guidelines, recommendations and rules???

Who is leading……whose on first indeed!!!!! Someone please help me out here!!

 

addendum:

As I wrote this Harvard announced they will allow freshman to be in residence with some exceptions, this fall. Therefore no fall sports, they will allow only seniors in the spring…logically then no spring sports. All students will learn remotely. I guess they figure students at home will not catch the virus…really!!!???

This is truly bizzare!!!

So What Happens To Fans In the Fall??

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With the exception of the Ivy League ( who are expected to announce their fall plans next week), most schools and conferences have at least published their guidelines for the fall return of students and sports. One missing element is fan accommodation. The return of sports has had underlying  unifying themes, first expense control, second revenue enhancement, and third safety in light of the virus.

I know I am going to get a lot of flack for the above statement, but in my view planning for many schools has involved preserving revenue streams and enhancing expense reduction, first. For the big 5 conferences, the revenue stream from televised football is in the hundreds of millions from football, the next tier of program sports and attendance is directly related to the revenue from students returning and alumni donations, which will be a considerable part of the net bottom line, given the unknown yields from tuition, and room and board.

However, governmental restrictions on crowd size and the ability to social distance will have an impact on the non-revenue sports. In the Patriot League the majority of the guidelines are directed at the expense side….limiting travel, overnight stays, and preseason expenses. The next question may be…. will crowd size be controlled??

In Pennsylvania, an email went out yesterday to the Penn State Letterman’s club that crowd size at Beaver Stadium ( seats 106,000) will be severely limited. Speculation is that it may be limited to 6000 fans. So who gets the tickets???? To the point of Field Hockey and other “Olympic Sports,” how will limitations, if there are any, be enforced and controlled.

Rappolt Field at Lafayette, which is the home of Field Hockey sits 750 in the stands, and maybe another 250 on the surrounding grass. The  average size of the crowds last year was about 350. Will crowds be limited to some number under 350, and how will those seats be allocated??? I believe that two problems with one solution is possible….charge for seats.  Everyone would pay, let’s, say 10 dollars per seat per game, which generates revenue as well as rations seats. The whole Patriot League should agree to charge for all “Olympic Sports,” so as not to create hard feelings from visiting fans. A ten dollar fee for 300 fans generates 3000 dollars per game for 8 home games or 24,000 dollars. You could call it a donation, and the fan could get a tax deduction as well. ( Many charities like art museums do this).

To make it fair everyone should be charged…no exceptions. It may reduce the ultimate size of crowds, but isn’t that the purpose anyway??  Holy Cross has already stated they were going restrict access to the campus and I expect Lafayette would do the same for the campus on the Hill. Admission to the Metzgar Athletic Campus should likewise require a charge…at least for next year. All other Patriot League venues (except Lehigh) are actually on or adjacent to the campus.

To conclude, I think it should be up to individuals whether to attend or not to attend. After all we can all go to the local supermarket ( masked) without hinderance. Why not to games. Oh, and of course all games should be live steamed, without exception!!!

Colonial Athletic Association Adopts New Championship Format In Response to Virus

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The Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) has adopted a new championship model that fits with their previous innovative scheduling concept for Olympic team sports. On June 3, the League ( consisting of Delaware, William and Mary, Northeastern, JMU, Hofstra,Drexel, and Towson in field hockey)  stated that each CAA institution has committed to play at least the minimum number of contests per sport to meet NCAA sport requirements, but using what the CAA calls the Extreme Flexibility Model (EFM).  The EFM is designed to maximize the cost saving with regular season travel. Each school has the option of scheduling  each other, even multiple times, but it is not required that they play each other at all.

In concert with the EFM format, yesterday, June 23rd, the conference announced unlike previous years,  every team will be eligible to play in the conference tournament championship.  The conferences athletic administration felt it was important to give all student athletes the experience of competing for a CAA championship and a chance for the auto bid to the NCAA tournament.

Student athlete health and safety, limiting travel, missed class time and controlling costs were considered in the decision. The championship will be held at one location. A committee of athletic administrators and conference staff will determine the seeds  for the championship using a variety of metrics including postseason polls of the conference head coaches. In the event, that each team plays a regular conference schedule, standings will determine the seeds.

I am impressed with this well thought out plan which provides scheduling flexibility, concern for the athlete’s class time and safety, while providing an experience worthy of the effort.

We still have not heard from the Ivy League who traditionally start later in the season.

The Patriot League announced their plans last Monday. The scheduling gun has sounded and a free for all in filling scheduling dates has begun. The Ivies may be left out at the end, given they have not finalized plans for even their fall student body returns.

Patriot League Announces Fall Plans

This is going to be one of those article that might upset the powers that be!!

In a confusing press release the Patriot League has announced a blended plan for all sports to open in the fall. If there was real thought put into this, I failed to comprehend it. Here is the essence, and it applies to all sports.

1. Athletes will return to campus the same time as all other students

2. Non-League games cannot be played before Sept 4

3. No flying to games and on rare exceptions no overnight

4. No League games until the end of Sept.

5. All games completed by the end of November.

I can see real problems. Lafayette Field Hockey has a game scheduled at home last week in August..that’s gone. Football has a game with Sacred Heart on Sept 4, after two weeks practice and then plays a game with Navy the following week. It is unclear when orientation for freshmen will occur , in any case, there will be no two a day practices since they are forbidden while class is in session..

Colgate Field Hockey has published its schedule and it is posted on the PL website. On Oct 17 Lafayette will play Colgate at noon. So will the team travel by bus leaving at 5:30 am to make and prepare for the game??  Colgate was to play Rider on Aug 28…is that game now gone. They play American on Sept 19 is game which now has to be rescheduled and they were to play at 11 am…really after a 5-7 hour bus trip??

Will games that were scheduled near other games be rescheduled in order to reach a normal year 16 game target!!! Will there have to be games midweek, and will athletes have to miss class???!! (11 games are needed to meet NCAA div 1 minimum and are allowed a max of 20) Accordingly, the fall structure was made with the health and safety of student athletes in mind. Preparation is key to health and safety. I see a lot of cost saving but very little health and safety initiatives.

Holy Cross is to start classes on Sept 1 which leaves no team at the school will have adequate prep time.  I am stunned at the lack of thought. Maybe I’m wrong…maybe there’s more to come. I hope so!!