MASCAC puts winter sports schedules on hold until second semester

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If the winter sports athletes who play in the Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference get a chance to participate in the school year, it won't be until the next calendar year.

The conference announced on Friday that all winter sports contests would be suspended until the start of the second semester.

"The MASCAC Presidents have been continuously monitoring the pandemic and guidelines from local state, federal and NCAA officials," said MCLA president James F. Birge, the chair of the MASCAC Council of Presidents, "which has assisted us in making the difficult decision to suspend winter sports during the fall semester."

In a release from MASCAC, the decision came after "on-going consultation" with the conference's Council of Presidents, athletic directors and athletic training staffs from the eight conference members.

"The NCAA Board of Governors, they release criteria and they've been releasing regular information with SSI, that's the Sports Science Institute, about how to safely resume sports," MASCAC commissioner Angela Baumann said. "Some of those recommendations included additional testing. With those guidelines, we took that into consideration and looked at those recommendations. [The NCAA Division III Administrative Committee] were asked to look at repopulation, and they actually came out with a recommendation that member schools not compete in the fall term due to the potential increase of safety risks. Our presidents really are concerned for our student-athletes and the communities of our member institutions. The health and safety really came into play.

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"It led us to the decision that we would postpone all competition during the fall semester."

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According to the MCLA athletics website, the Trailblazers' men's basketball team had a non-league game against Northern Vermont-Johnson scheduled for Nov. 16. The MCLA women had non-conference games on the calendar for Dec. 5 against Mount Holyoke and Dec. 9 against St. Joseph's (Conn.). All three of those games had been scheduled for the Amsler Campus Center.

But with the decision not to play winter sports during the first semester, the first games that are on the MCLA basketball schedules are set for Jan. 9, against Fitchburg State.

The MASCAC commissioner said that while the conference is planning to play come the second semester, she was not ready to say whether it would be just in-conference play or if schools like MCLA would be able to play rivals like Williams or Castleton (Vt.) University.

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"We have different models that we are looking at," Baumann said in an interview with The Eagle. "There have been no decisions made. We're in a very fluid situation. The NCAA is going to be coming out later in September, when we should have some more guidance with regard to the possibility to moving back winter championships. Plus, we're currently working at repopulating our campuses. We need to look at how repopulation is going, how the infection rate is going, what the recommendations are from the NCAA as well as from our governor."

The release stated that winter practices will be permitted in the first semester, and will restart during the second semester for men's and women's basketball — impacting MCLA — along with hockey and indoor track and field. MCLA does not field teams in those sports.

"I was very pleased that we were able to find a safe path forward to at least allow our student-athletes, in a responsible manner, on-campus training opportunities," Baumann said, "to stay healthy, both mentally and physically."

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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