The Patriot League will not play sports in the fall because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In Monday’s announcement, the league also said that a decision on winter sports will be made at a later date and that practice, conditioning and strength training will be permitted if “health and safety conditions support such activities.”
The U.S. Military Academy and Naval Academy are exempt from the cancellation, and any decisions on their participation in competitive sports will be made by their superintendents.
“From a health and well-being standpoint, things are not getting better in this country,” Patriot League commissioner Jennifer Heppel told ESPN. “As we get closer to the point where students are going to be making plans to how they travel back to our campuses as well as student-athletes, it became clear for us that this wasn’t going to be in the best interest of our communities to have athletics this fall. That’s the decision that had been made. It’s incredibly disappointing for our student-athletes and our coaches, and it’s not a decision anybody is feeling good about. It’s sad. It’s gut-wrenching.”
Heppel said having fall sports in the spring would present “many challenges,” but that the Patriot League will still consider it — and today, she has no idea what it might look like, “but we’ll get to work on it.”
“There are still so many unknowns,” she said. “By talking about spring, we’re jumping right over winter, and there are many challenges around winter. I think we owe it to be honest and transparent about the fact it is going to be very challenging, but also we owe it to our student-athletes and coaches to creatively explore every opportunity that might be out there.”
Heppel said the league is focused on getting students back into a learning environment.
“We’ve got to focus on the higher-ed part of this, as opposed to the athletics part of it, which is an incredibly important part,” she said.
The decision comes on the heels of the Ivy League canceling its fall sports last week.
The Big Ten and the Pac-12 both announced last week that they would be playing conference-only schedules this football season.
The ACC and SEC have yet to make decisions regarding scheduling.
SEC athletic directors are meeting in person at the conference offices in Birmingham, Alabama, on Monday.
Over the weekend, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said that the conference’s deadline to reach a decision is late July, but he acknowledged that “we are running out of time to correct and get things right.”
“We put a medical advisory group together in early April with the question, ‘What do we have to do to get back to activity?’ and they’ve been a big part of the conversation,” Sankey said during an interview on Marty & McGee on ESPN Radio on Saturday. “But the direct reality is not good and the notion that we’ve politicized medical guidance of distancing, and breathing masks, and hand sanitization, ventilation of being outside, being careful where you are in buildings. There’s some very clear advice about — you can’t mitigate and eliminate every risk, but how do you minimize the risk? … We are running out of time to correct and get things right, and as a society we owe it to each other to be as healthy as we can be.”
Southland commissioner Tom Burnett said he is keeping an eye on what other conferences are doing, and the next week to 10 days will provide even more clarity about whether everyone needs to move their seasons to the spring. He said the Southland hasn’t had extensive conversations on a spring season, and the FCS national championship game remains as scheduled for Frisco, Texas, on Jan. 9.
“We can’t go half and half, so there’s going to have to be some uniformity in what we’re thinking about and obviously we’re watching our colleagues in the FBS,” Burnett said. “If they’re going to pick up and possibly move their season to the spring, we’re not going to be able to ignore that and have to strongly consider that. But not quite sure how to speculate on any kind of answer if three or four conferences are in the fall and three or four are in the spring. That probably doesn’t compute.”
ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, Andrea Adelson and Heather Dinich contributed to this report.