Patriot League And Lafayette College Announce Return Of Sports

_big_a6LAF_4352

In a coordinated announcement at 9:29am the Patriot League along with its member institutions announced a plan to return to the courts and playing fields in the near future. Sherryta Freeman, Lafayette AD, followed with an email at 9:32 to alumni and others explaining the steps to put Lafayette Athletics back into competition with the rest of the collegiate athletic world. It was a welcome communication, as the outlines of the return of fall sports ( including field hockey) could begin for this spring. The only conference playing field hockey this fall, is the ACC, who completed its championship yesterday with UNC beating Louisville. UNC will get the ACC auto-bid for a spring national championship. Louisville is certainly worthy of consideration of the one of the at large bids.

Freeman stated in her email, “I’m excited to share some good news. Just a few moments ago, the Patriot League Council of Presidents announced that it endorsed a plan for a league only 2021 men’s and women’s basketball schedule beginning Saturday Jan 2.” Freeman added…forthcoming….

In addition, the council supported continued planning for competitive fall sports schedules during the spring semester under a variety of parameters.

DSC_7762
Sophie Carr is on the ball!!

She added, ” I am anxious and excited to see our teams compete again and build upon last year’s success. Achieving our goal of creating a championship culture remains our priority and we will be ready when competitions begin.”

The details for basketball are a little complicated and deserve study, as it may be a clue as to how field hockey will schedule this spring. In any case, it looks like Lafayette and the Patriot League are making sure all its schools will be eligible for NCAA tournaments.

10908778

The basketball schedule features a significant reduction in travel and restricts games to Patriot League opponents. No team will be permitted to fly to games. This sounds more like a cost saving measure as there does not appear to be any scientific data that would compromise health by flying or staying in hotels. There will still be travel but the League has split into three regional mini conferences with teams playing four games against each regional opponent. This will give the conference participants the 16 games necessary to qualify for the NCAA tournament. Eight of the ten teams will qualify for the Patriot League Tournament. The service academies are excempt from all provisions regarding out of conference play. The three divisions are North ( Army,Boston, Colgate, Holy Cross), Central (Bucknell, Lafayette, Lehigh), and South (American, Loyola,and Navy).

The result according to the schedule is that Lafayette will not play Holy Cross or Army, during the regular season, but will play Bucknell and Lehigh four times, and Boston, Loyola,American, Colgate and Navy twice. It must be my 75 years but the logic escapes me, but I’ll take it. Championships will be March 6,10 and March  14. Women’s Basketball is similar with championship games March 7, 11 and the 14th.

I could see a similar scheduling attempt for Field Hockey while playing each team twice in a season similar to the ACC’s already completed fall season. So that would mean 12 games and potentially two additional games in the championship. And then on to the NCAA with the auto bid.

Lafayette Goes Hybrid For The Spring

In a release to the Lafayette community, President Allison Byerly announced the plan for the spring semester. She reviewed the issues in the fall and how the college’s goals were met by limiting the population density on campus and by offering remote only learning. In a zoom meeting several weeks ago she revealed that 60-70 percent of the faculty wanted to return to normal teaching.

Byerly noted that many of our peers have been successful in bringing students back to campus, and offering some portion of in person classes. Bucknell, Lehigh, Colgate, Boston among others have been successful examples, along with West Point and Annapolis in the Patriot League.

She recognizes that bringing more students to campus presents greater challenges but believes the risks to be manageable. A return to campus by students would have to include significant increases in testing protocols and community commitment. She adds we cannot expect a disease-free environment, but with effort the Lafayette community can control the environment within manageable levels.

Lafayette did experience a minor spike in cases last week of seven, with six being asymptomatic. Further testing revealed three more asymptomatic testing, so far this week.

mail

So all students will choose to study at home or come to campus. Those who are at home get a 10 pct discount on their tuition ( plus no room or board). Students must make their choice by Nov 2.

All faculty will choose whether to teach in the classroom or remotely. Some employees will choose to remain at home. There is an expectation that students will participate in testing and contact tracing. Students should not expect all activities and services normally available.

It was emphasized they are not promising a normal semester. So it is uncertain still, about the future of sports. The NCAA has set a calendar for the return of basketball and the playing of fall sports in the spring. The ACC is playing a full calendar of games including field hockey this fall. There several conferences that have already announced plans for spring field hockey. I have heard rumored that at least two Ivy League schools will not play this spring ( Harvard, Princeton and perhaps Yale). There may be five Ivy League schools playing.

It appears that there is a majority in the Patriot League who want to return to sports this winter and spring ( Army, Navy, Holy Cross, Colgate, Lehigh and Bucknell and perhaps BU). It has been pointed out, that there are state impediments for Holy Cross and BU, but Boston College has been able to navigate those obstacles as an ACC member.

_big_a16DO2F2756

The above announcements makes it more likely but not a certainty that Lafayette will return to athletic competition. I see no impediment for a fanless basketball season, since student don’t return until mid to late January. Outside sports to me are a no brainer, field hockey, golf, soccer, tennis and even Lacrosse and Football could be played, given the low risk to the participants in that age group.

I note that the ACC has managed to play without major incident and Army and Navy have not had infection problems with contact from other schools. I would hope and encourage that an announcement on sports in the very near future is promulgated, anything less would be a major disappointment, demonstrating a lack of commitment and leadership. Not to say a fiscal and strategic mistake!!

Let’s go Pards!!

The NCAA vs Power Five Football

67951739_2415500581872190_4886809803659149312_o

Mark Emmert president of the NCAA called off all NCAA fall championships, which left the FBS intact, the one the NCAA has made out of reach. Most of these schools are clinging with dogged determination to keep football playing this fall, along with other sports. Emmert climbed out of his bunker to declare the fall season over for most schools and set off a battle between the large power 5 schools and the rest of college athletics.

Emmert is clearly trying to pressure the remaining conferences to give in and play their championships in the spring. The remaining six football conferences are clearly up against the wall but it sets up a showdown between the NCAA who usually bows to the large conferences and all the rest of college athletics.

Sports Illustrated reports one Group of 5 AD said, ” Does the fall proceed with only six FBS conferences playing football and no one else doing anything.” The dynamic has changed this fall with many sports reaching less than 50% playing the many other sports and therefore triggering cancelling all fall championship tournaments. Is Karen Shelton at UNC going to be content to play 6 or 7 games and be ineligible to play for a national championship?

It was the Big Ten move and Pac 12 move that reduced the leverage of the remaining conferences. ” Among our frustrations with the NCAA is that they keep making announcements like this, without having first decided the myriad of associated issues involving eligibility, scholarship limits, competition season, roster size, etc ” said one Power 5 AD.  These are all legitimate issues and issues that have not been addressed by conferences like the Patriot League leaving many student athletes in limbo!!

The NCAA is not without fault neither is the Patriot League. These are important issues which ultimately go to credibility. IF THEY ARE SERIOUS ABOUT A SPRING SEASON ( THE LAST CHANCE FOR MANY ATHLETES TO PLAY THIS ACADEMIC YEAR ) THEY SHOULD BE SPENDING THE NEXT SEVERAL MONTHS SOLVING THESE PROBLEMS.

As many of you already know, I am not a great fan of the NCAA, for the main reason they have closed their eyes to the larger issues in college sports and chosen to encourage enforcement of a  plethora of ridiculous minor violations  ( like five dollar gift prohibitions to former athletes). The members schools of the NCAA have gone along with this and bear some responsibility for the current situation.

I do not believe the NCAA should go away, but be a better regulatory organization focusing on the “big stuff.” That takes engagement by the president’s of the colleges and universities. We should be returning to sport, not politics, power and egotism. We should be encouraging the lessons of athletics which are learned best on the playing field than in back room deals by interested combines. Sports has become entwined in other efforts recently, perhaps we all should take deep breath and decide how we get our student athletes back on the field! Full Stop!!

Icata Alea Est….The Die Is Cast

IMG_0630

It was reported that on January 10th 49 BCE Suetonis said to Julius Caesar, “Icata Alea Est,” as he led is forces across the Rubicon in northern Italy in defiance of the Senate. There is nothing that can stop the inevitable. Similarly, the Big Ten athletic conference deferred all fall sports to the spring, making  almost all Olympic Sports, in particular Field Hockey,  fall short of the 50% guideline for a NCAA championship season.

As I had opined last Friday, the action by the Mid American Conference moved Division one field hockey into failing to get the needed 39 to stage an NCAA Field Hockey Championship. The move by the Big Ten assures that Field Hockey will have enough competitions in the spring ( should they play) to stage that tournament.

The one remaining field hockey playing conference to go, is the ACC, which is being held hostage by Football,  along with several other power five conferences are  insisting on playing this fall. In the case of field hockey, who will the ACC be playing??  No doubt each other, and will that make them ineligible for a spring NCAA championship?? At the moment, they are being held prisoner by their football playing brethren.

DSC_7040

The NCAA has almost made their leadership ineffective, as they played no role in the Big Ten ( and Pac 12) action. Some Ivy League schools may still not have enough student athletes to field a team so the moves yesterday made it more likely the 39 team limit could be met this spring.

My hope is Lafayette has begun planning for the spring, to allow the next phase to happen. As it stands now, there will be about 700 students on campus this fall. There are 4-5 months now to plan and insure that the spring population is sufficient to resume all activities. GO PARDS!!

Mid American Cancels Fall Sports

safe_image-13.php

The mid American Conference of which the field hockey playing schools are Appalachian  State, Ball State, Kent State, Miami, Ohio, Central Michigan, and Longwood, announced the canceling of all fall sports!! These seven schools will bring the number of schools not playing this fall to 40 assuming Louisville will return after their quarantine. Since there are 78 Division one schools and the NCAA has stated if more that 50% if the eligible schools don’t play, there will be no NCAA championship this fall.

In my opinion, all the remaining schools should bag the fall season and play a full series of games this spring. It solves a lot of eligibility issues and gives time to reschedule 16 or 18 games, in other words a full season!!!

In this crazy season that might be too logical to happen….but maybe!!!

It’s All In The Numbers Now

As September approaches under normal circumstances, I would be going over rosters and schedules, and discussing who has the upper hand for a League and even an NCAA bid. But it has all come down to the numbers, as to whether they will even be an NCAA champion this fall.

78–39–34–5

All three division committees met yesterday and made decisions on whether, or under what circumstances an NCAA tournament would be played. Divison 2 and 3 were simple enough. There will be no champion period this fall in all sports, Olympic or otherwise. Most of these schools have already cancelled fall sports all together.

But Division one is still being held hostage by the power 5 schools who desperately need to play football. The protocol seems to be, if football is played the other sports will play.. However, all schools don’t play all sports. The power 5 football schools have a huge investment in playing games which generate large amounts of cash and television fees. For the most part, they have decided to play each other and replicate that strategy for their Olympic sports, including field hockey.

The Division one committee has stated that if 50% of the eligible sports are not playing there would be no national Division one tournament. The NCAA has already reduced in half the number of games to qualify, but there are 78 schools playing field hockey which means 39 must be playing to have a final national tournament. At the present time 34 schools are NOT playing according to my information, meaning if 5 undecideds change there is no NCAA tournament this fall.

_big_a25DO2F9512
Ana Steps takes control against Temple

The most vulnerable conferences who might call off the fall are the Mid-American Conference and the NEC. A decision must be made by Aug 14. If either one call the fall off, there will be no tournament.

One little potential problem is individual schools could decide to call off conference schedules. Louisville did just that yesterday despite their membership in the ACC. Connecticut dropped football for the fall but keeps field hockey, as they are independent in football and a member of the Big East in field hockey.

12-15

The number 12 is the number of scholarship equivalencies Div 1 field hockey teams are allowed to have on their roster. By August the 15th schools must decide what the status of their program will be and therefore what that status of their athletes will be. Will they declare as a redshirt for coming semester to preserve an extra year of eligibility??  What will that do to the amount of scholarships any team can offer to incoming recruits?? Will the NCAA temporarily raise the ceiling on scholarships due to the crisis? I am told by college officials the PL would accommodate those who want the extra year due to the emergency.

IMG_0608
Leopards get ready in Maroon Club weight training center!!

As most of you who have been reading this blog know, I am not a great fan of the NCAA. I am especially critical of the Division one group, since they seem to be a prisoner of the power 5 conferences. We shall see if they can come to a rational place at the “end of the day.”

Given where Lafayette is I am hoping that the fall season is cancelled now for everyone, and played in the spring in its entirety. It fixes the eligibility question for most and gives student athletes a chance for some normalcy.

Lisa van der Geest Makes History With A Clean Sweep of Awards

DSC_7450
Lisa van der Geest delivers the ball downfield

Lisa van der Geest became the first student athlete in Lafayette history to receive all three awards given by the end of the year. Last fall she received the Maroon Club Scholar Athlete award, and last night received the Class of 1913 Trophy for the senior scholar athlete, and the Charles L. Albert ’08 award for best senior athlete. The international affairs major was an all league, all region and all American selection. Rather than focus on the awards, which she humbly accepted in a recorded message last night, I would like to recall my impressions of her impact on the field.

She was the field general for this team, filling the position of center back, the equivalent of quarterback in American football. She was the extra coach on the field, and I am told spent time with the younger players helping them as well!! Lisa was an inspiration to her teammates, almost never leaving the field of play. As the League defensive player of the year, she also was a key part of Lafayette’s offensive corner battery.

She never gave up and made sure her team always had their head in the game. While most people would recognize this entire class as exceptional, she represented the soul of that class. She was a key contributor in most every game.

Justifiably, she credited her teammates and coaches, but especially her parents who traveled several times from Holland to see her play, and certainly watched via video often times late at night.

My most vivid memory was her last game, scoring her last goal in the Patriot League Championship game.  Although, the team didn’t win, her goal with 47 seconds left to bring the Leopards within one goal, lifted all of us. The game was not over and I still dream of the possibilities. But her efforts in the closing minutes of that game was Lisa..never conceding defeat!!

I can’t imagine what the future holds for Lisa, but I feel confident, in less than ten years from now, we will see her on the podium at Lafayette being inducted to the Athletic Hall of Fame!!

DSC_7875
Cam Costello played key roles in during the season

Field Hockey was well represented as Cam Costello, Lafayette  midfielder was nominated for the 1913 trophy also. An obvious star in the classroom, she was also a key reason for the success of the field hockey team this year. My impressions of her “gleefully” make her presence known to her opponents will stay with me. She scored the opening goal in the championship game to give the Leopards and early 1-0 lead!! Her parents were in regular attendance and gave obvious support to this excellent student athlete.

Where Is The Next Miracle Coming From?

 

G2_USWNTvCHI_800 x 500

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.

safe_image-13.php_

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.

 

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

IMG_0632

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?!