Siena home athletic events will be closed to spectators through March 29, while the RPI men’s hockey team’s ECAC Hockey Tournament quarterfinal series was changed among a slate of developments Wednesday as attempts to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic had wide-ranging effects on the area sports scene.
In addition, UAlbany remained open for athletic events despite Wednesday’s announcement that all SUNY and CUNY schools will move to a distance-learning model for the remainder of the spring semester. In high school athletics, spectators will not be permitted to attend this weekend’s state ice hockey championships in Buffalo, though regional finals for Section II boys’ and girls’ basketball teams set for Saturday were still on as scheduled and planned to be open to spectators.
Siena announced Wednesday that while the college will continue to host athletic events, starting Thursday and until March 29 no spectators will be permitted to attend. While spectators were permitted to attend Wednesday’s women’s lacrosse game between Siena and UAlbany at Hickey Field, fans were encouraged not to attend.
Siena is currently on its spring break, which was due to run through Friday, but was extended through March 20.
In a release, it was announced that “the College has cancelled or postponed any event that involves more than 50 participants. Siena Athletics programs will be allowed to play their games, but spectators will not be allowed to attend any home games on the Siena College campus between the dates of Mar. 12-29. The only people allowed to attend games outside of the teams and coaching staffs will be essential personnel such as department support staff (e.g. trainers, communications, personnel, facility staff) and game officials.”
All programs currently in their traditional seasons — according to the release, baseball, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, men’s golf, women’s golf, men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse, men’s outdoor track, women’s outdoor track, softball, men’s tennis, women’s tennis, and water polo — are currently allowed to have their athletes on campus to live, practice and play both home and away games.
“We have a campus emergency operations team that is conferring on a daily basis — if not more than daily,” Siena assistant director of marketing and communications Lisa Witkowski said. “That’s the same for every college. The situation with the coronavirus is just changing on an hourly, daily basis. We are doing our best to stay one step ahead of it.
“If that’s the direction that the school has decided is in our best interest, then that’s what we’re going to go forward with,” Siena women’s lacrosse coach Abby Rehfuss said after Wednesday’s game, which had an official listed attendance of 89.
RPI’s ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series against Harvard was due to begin Friday with no fans in attendance at Houston Field House, a decision originally announced Sunday. However, Harvard announced Wednesday that it would not permit its team to travel for the series. Later Wednesday, Yale also withdrew from the ECAC Hockey postseason.
With the defections, ECAC Hockey re-seeded the tournament with the six remaining teams. RPI will now host Colgate in a quarterfinal series, with Quinnipiac hosting Princeton in the other quarterfinal. The top-two seeds in the tournament, Cornell and Clarkson, received byes to the semifinals next weekend in Lake Placid.
Harvard’s decision not to travel to RPI came just before the Ivy League announced it was canceling the remainder of the spring sports season for its eight member schools.
That decision impacts multiple events involving both UAlbany and Siena, including the cancellation of UAlbany’s scheduled women’s lacrosse game Sunday at home against Dartmouth.
“It’s really uncharted territory for everyone,” UAlbany women’s lacrosse coach Katie Rowan Thomson said following Wednesday’s game against Siena. “We’ll just take it day-by-day and see what happens.”
Among the other cancellations involving Ivy League opponents were Siena’s April 7 home men’s lacrosse game against Princeton and the UAlbany men’s lacrosse team’s April 18 road game against Yale.
Though Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that all SUNY and CUNY schools would move to distance-learning models for the remainder of the spring semester, UAlbany athletic director Mark Benson said Wednesday evening that the rest of the UAlbany campus remained open and that athletic events were set to go on as scheduled without any restrictions on spectators.
With the cancellation of the women’s lacrosse game against Dartmouth, the next athletic event scheduled to take place on the UAlbany campus is a March 21 men’s lacrosse game against Binghamton.
“We are following the university’s lead and working with university officials, Department of Health officials,” Benson said. “It’s a fluid situation. Right now, we are open for athletic events.
“At this point, we don’t have those type of [spectator] restrictions in place, but we’re going to continue to monitor things.”
In a release Wednesday afternoon, NYSPHSAA announced that fans will not be able to attend the ice hockey state championships scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at the LECOM-HarborCenter in Buffalo, per the recommendation of the Commissioner of the Erie County Department of Health.
Bethlehem (Division 1) and Queensbury (Division 2) will represent Section II at this weekend’s state championships.
“At this time, we are moving forward with the championships,” NYSPHSAA executive director Robert Zayas said in the release, “however the impact of the coronavirus could necessitate revisions to the championship schedule.”
In the state basketball playoffs, the Class AA girls’ sub-regional between Ursuline and Monroe-Woodbury scheduled for Wednesday was postponed, with NYSPHSAA working to reschedule the game prior to Saturday.
As of Wednesday afternoon, games involving Section II teams — including the boys’ and girls’ games scheduled for Saturday at Hudson Valley Community College — were still on with no restrictions on spectators.
“As of 2:30 p.m. today we are in almost constant contact with Hudson Valley [Community College], the county and state health department and certainly with NYSPHSAA, who is working directly with the governor's office," Section II executive director Ed Dopp said. "As of 2:30 today we are a go for Saturday's regional games."
"As we started this, every couple of hours things change. If the recommendation comes through to make changes we will certainly consider and do what is in the best interest of student-athletes and the community in general.”
The state bowling championships slated to run Friday through Sunday at Strike ‘N Spare Lanes in Syracuse will be hosted as scheduled. According to the release, “NYSPHSAA staff has received no concerns or communications from the State or local health departments pertaining to mass gatherings in this part of the state.”
For those events that will not allow spectators on-site, contests will be streamed via the NFHS Network. The streaming service offers a monthly rate of $10.99 or a $69.99 annual subscription.
A pair of NCAA events scheduled to take place at Times Union Center — the men’s basketball tournament first- and second-round games scheduled for March 19 and 21 and the men’s ice hockey East Regional on March 28-29 — will be played without spectators, except for family members of the players. The NCAA announced that decision Wednesday for all of its upcoming championship events.
Sage’s home women’s lacrosse game scheduled for Thursday against SUNY Purchase was also postponed. Sage director of athletic communications Ann King said in an email Wednesday night that the decision to postpone was made to accommodate Purchase not being charged for cancelling its transportation to the game without sufficient notice. King said Sage would have more updates Thursday.
The remainder of the Albany Patroons’ basketball season was also cancelled as The Basketball League announced Wednesday that it is cancelling the remainder of its regular season, to be replaced with a four-day tournament with no spectators from March 19-22 in Owensboro, Kentucky.
A release from the Patroons stated that season ticket holders will be contacted over the next few days, and refunds for single-game tickets will be available at the point of sale.
Additional reporting contributed by Associate Sports Editor Ken Schott and staff writers Stan Hudy and Mike MacAdam.