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!!
Most Patriot League AD’s have kept a low profile during the quarantine but on June 15th Lehigh Dean of Athletics, Joe Sterrett gave the clearest picture yet of the thinking of the League. Now that all but a small minority of schools have revealed plans for a return to classes in the fall, Sterrett recognized it as a positive step. However, a final official decision is at least two weeks away.
The entire interview can be found on the Brown and White web site.
As reported in the Brown and White, Sterrett is reported to say, ” A plan will have to go through a series of approvals on campus, locally, with the Patriot League and then with other leagues. There were two gateway decisions that needed to be made before he and his team could realistically plan for a return of sports at Lehigh- the reopening of the state of Pennsylvania and Lehigh’s decision to return to campus.”
The county that Lehigh and Lafayette sit in is slowly reaching “green” status. Governor Wolfe recently announced new guidelines for a return of high school sports. It has been reported to me that the Lafayette athletic administration is working hard on strategies that will will allow, along with all the Patriot League schools a safe return to athletic competition.
The NCAA now does allow voluntary pre-practice training but since the county is still under “yellow” guidance, schools in that zone are unable to return. However, as the inevitable “green” phase arrives restrictions could be lifted.
Sterrett cautiously remarked it was conceivable that some sports may be able to take place while others may not, but the goal is to have all fall sports return. As of the June 15 interview, nothing has been ruled out. ” I’m more hopeful,” he says
At Lafayette, students athletes make up about 20 percent of the student population, and contrary to popular believe, the aid it consumes amounts to the equivalent of 30 percent of that population…… below that of the general student body. A fall without sport might have a devastating effect on revenue, both from giving alumni, as well as from student fees. It could be part of the decision for some to take a “gap” year by student athletes as well as the general population.
The clock ticks and by the end of the month a decision needs to be made!! In the meantime if I were a student athlete, I would continue my preseason conditioning plan as best I can.
In an announcement, from New York the Big East communicated schedule changes in league play for m/w soccer, volleyball, and field hockey. In an effort to reduce or eliminate air travel, field hockey will move to a North and South Division.Big East Field Hockey Teams will face each other two times in a double round-robin format. The north division will be Connecticut, Providence, Quinnipiac, Temple. The south division will be Georgetown, Liberty, Old Dominion and Villanova.
Big East schedules will be created using the NCAA Championship date formulas to ensure completion of the conference schedules in time for the national postseason selection dates. Big East championship dates, sites and formats will be announced later.
In previous years, Lafayette has played Temple, Villanova, Liberty, Providence, Quinnipiac and Georgetown several year ago. Interestingly, Villanova’s field is north of Temple despite their designation as a south team. I assume the schedule is home and home. I have no idea how this will effect Lafayette’s OTC schedule, but since all the Big East teams must play in the Philadelphia area perhaps there are opportunities for a short bus ride to play a Big East opponent???
I await some indication of what Lafayette and the Patriot League plan to do. In the meantime, in the matter of scheduling, any plan for the League has been figuratively a cricket chirping!!!
By 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.
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.
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.
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!!!!
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.
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!!
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!!
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.!!!
The Group of Five Commissioners ( from the 5 power schools) have petitioned the NCAA to cut the number of sports sponsored to be considered for Division one status. ( currently a school must sponsor 16 sports to be considered in Division one). Jennifer Heppel, commissioner of the Patriot League was one of 32 mid major league administrators who responded with a strongly worded open letter to the NCAA opposing the power play by the large football playing schools.
The letter dated April 21 reads as follows:
” On behalf of the Intercollegiate Coach Association Coalition (ICAC), we herby register our opposition to the request by the Group of Five Commissioners to allow conferences and schools to cut the number of sports sonsored to be considered for Division on status.
The economic impact the Covid 19 endemic places a lasting burden of both higher education and intercollegiate athletics alike, but slashing opportunities for students is not the solution.
Last year, NCAA Division one institutions provided educational opportunities for 141,483 students in Olympic sports. These are not just exceptional athletes, but outstanding students with graduation rates and donation rates higher than their non-athletic peers. These student athletes generated 3.6 billion in tuition and fees to their university, an amount nearly equal what it costs to provide these opportunities .
Sport fosters community and a life long love for our colleges and universities, impacting alumni involvement, endowment and giving. We need these contributions now more than ever.
Our first and most important commitment must be to our students, and duty requires us to explore every possible avenue for maintaining or investment in them. Reducing the minimum sports sponsorship requirement that would open the door to eliminating sports should not be an option. We are all in this together , and we are ready, eager and willing to partner with the NCAA to fine creativity solutions for the challenges to come. America’s students have had so much taken from them. Now is not the time to cut them. off from yet another critical institution that makes university life so special.
We respectfully request anything related to the discussion of the number of sports sponsored to follow the protocol of legislative procedure that allows for discussion and collaboration.
We stand as a committed partner to consider how to balance the reality of athletic department budgets with the enrollment needs of institutions. We know that we can develop the structural changes needed to preserve these opportunities, support our collective educational mission , and build a stronger NCAA as we emerge from the Coviv 19 pandemic.”
Anxiety is not an uncommon emotion these days, as our institutions try to organize a response to the pandemic. Perhaps it is Higher Education that may experience more radical change than any other group of institutions. Hospitals, pubic schools, even most small businesses will reappear, but there is growing concern higher education may be permanently scarred, as a result of the effects of social distancing and staying in place.
As a sector, higher education is getting “hammered,” as some analysts have suggested. Some universities and colleges may never recover much less sports programs operate as usual. Many college and universities were forced to refund room and board. In Lafayette’s case 1/2 room and board was refunded, or applied to next year’s expenses. In addition, every student was given a 1,000 dollar stipend to cover expenses of moving out. However, not all students were able to move out, and as I understand it from some sources, about three hundred students remain on campus.
Lafayette like many schools has moved to online learning. Syllabus’ needed to be changed, curriculum, and teaching methods needed to be readjusted. I can only imagine the difficulty the stem fields have in teaching without access to labs. and seniors who have had to cope with lack of access for their various research projects. Lafayette does have a 900 million dollar endowment to draw from, but that drawing from an endowment that may have suffered declines may impact resources in the future. Salaries and hiring have been frozen, and senior officials have taken cuts in compensation. I have to believe that alumni, whose portfolios and businesses which have been hit by declines no doubt will ultimately have an impact on philanthropy.
Lesser institutions may be left in precarious circumstances. It is estimated that between 10 and 20 percent of all higher education institutions are in trouble. With about 5300 such institutions it could mean that as many as 1000 will not survive intact. Public universities are not left alone, because they are. supported by state government already strapped for cash.
Over the last decade there was an 11 percent enrollment drop. Expenses have continued to climb during the last ten years, but going forward that will not be possible. Discount rates ( scholarships vs full pay) is rising past the 40. pct level, a level years ago considered unsustainable. The three classes of vulnerable institutions effected are non-selective private colleges, middle tier state institutions and community colleges.
The AP reports that some universities are looking at losses of 100 million or more. Drew University is laying off 70 staff, Quinnipiac has announced 3- 5 percent salary cuts, Marquette is furloughing 250, University of Minnesota had a 300 million dollar hit, and the University of Arizona has announced salary cuts up to 20 percent. The New York Times estimates a 15-20 percent drop in enrollment nation wide next year.
What does this mean for sports programs? The era of multi-million dollar contracts for coaches is over ( thankfully Lafayette and all the Patriot League schools are not among them). It has been rumored that the Power 5 conferences are considering cancelling or altering the fall football season. So goes football so goes the other non revenue sports. For Patriot League schools, those budgets are not large compared to the overall budget, but the programs are important to connect and encourage alumni giving.
It is a certainty, if students do not return to campus in the fall there will be no sports at least in that semester. What happens to eligibility, and will students defer their fall semester for a year? After all, they enrolled for the whole experience not an “at home on line education.”
I hope we are through this by June but the clock is ticking and there is no doubt the effects may be lasting!!