Lori Anctil said she didn’t view Thursday as a “doom-and-gloom day” despite the announcement from the Northeast-10 Conference that it had suspended all competition and championships through the end of 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead, the Saint Rose athletic director saw the conference’s Council of Presidents’ unanimous decision as a sign that progress was being made toward a successful return of athletics in 2021, describing herself as “encouraged” with the action the Golden Knights’ conference took Thursday as college leagues across the country grapple with the continued threat and fallout from the coronavirus.
“As you started seeing the trends nationally, across different areas of the country, I think people’s faith in terms of having our student-athletes have their full, robust seasons — that seemed possible a few weeks ago — started to dwindle,” Anctil said in a phone interview. “Things were getting worse around the country and we didn’t want to bring the 6,000-plus athletes that are a part of the NE-10 back this fall with the notion they could play a full season and not have restrictions.”
Instead, Saint Rose and its conference members won’t play any games until January — but that plan to play in 2021 includes fall sports such as soccer, which the league intends to sponsor during the spring semester of 2021 as well as its traditional spring spots.
“Depending on the moves other leagues and institutions make, we can get some non-conference games, too,” Anctil said.
Saint Rose’s women’s soccer team advanced last season to the Division II national semifinals. Anctil said she views it as a possibility the NCAA will move its national tournaments for fall sports to next spring, especially as more schools and leagues cancel their fall slates.
“I’m hopeful that’s going to happen,” Anctil said. “I’m hopeful and optimistic they’ll look at every scenario and situation to move those fall championships to the spring.”
Anctil said she expects sports that traditionally start their season during the fall semester and end in the spring semester — such as basketball — will be able to play non-conference games, too, in addition to conference games in a revamped schedule that the NE-10 is already working to put together. Like with the traditional fall sports, Anctil expressed optimism that the NCAA could move back its national tournaments for sports such as basketball, but said the expectation is that the NE-10 will conclude its conference tournament in time for whenever the national tournament is set to be played.
Locally, Saint Rose joins Union, Russell Sage and RPI in not participating this fall in NCAA athletics. Meanwhile, all NJCAA institutions — such as SUNY Schenectady — previously moved all of their athletics to next year, with the exceptions of cross country and women’s tennis for schools that compete in those sports.
Siena and its MAAC counterparts have previously delayed the start of fall sports until Sept. 11. No such conference-wide announcement has been made yet by the America East Conference, but UAlbany football — which plays in the CAA — had its first scheduled game of the 2020 season canceled when Delaware State had its fall season canceled along with all other Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference programs.
At Saint Rose, Anctil said the school’s athletes will be able to train during the fall semester that starts Aug. 24, but will do so in following a “phased approach” that sees conditioning grow to working in small groups and then to full practices. There will be extra health and safety protocols followed throughout that semester, and what’s deemed necessary to keep athletes safe will likely change as the region’s overall health situation changes.
“Like with everything when it comes to this virus,” Anctil said, “we have to be flexible with what we’re doing.”