Carleton College became the first Division III school in Minnesota to cancel fall sports, announcing the decision Friday and joining scores of others making similar moves during the pandemic.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Carleton athletic director Gerald Young said. “But it’s the right decision. We need to try the best we can to have a safe campus for everybody. It’s not in our best interest right now to have outside competition and travel.”
The Northfield school is the only one among the MIAC’s 13 members to inform the league of a decision to cease fall competition, Commissioner Dan McKane said Friday by phone.
Carleton’s move, though, could still be a sign of things to come for the conference. Division III leagues are shutting down for the fall across the country.
“For the MIAC, at this point we still plan to play this fall,” McKane said. “We are having meetings next week to take a look at what fall would look like and how we adapt and adjust to [COVID-19]-era athletics. At this point, we are still planning to play this fall, but I believe that window is becoming very narrow for us.”
The MIAC is communicating with the NCAA on ideas to “reshape what collegiate athletics might look like for the next year,” McKane said. One possibility is to move fall sports to the spring.
“It’s being discussed as an opportunity for us,” he said. “We’re still seeing if NCAA championships are on for the fall as well. At this point they are.”
Earlier this week, the Centennial Conference became the first NCAA conference to cancel fall sports; the conference consists of 11 private Division III schools in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
The New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) also announced Friday it would not have fall sports. The 11 member schools agreed to tweak their rules to allow coaches and athletes to meet for practices and activities outside their traditional season.
“As the pandemic evolves, we will continue to monitor changing federal, state and local guidance,” an NESCAC statement said. “We will consult with each other as well as public health authorities and the NCAA about the possibility of further changes to NESCAC rules.”
Several Division III schools canceled fall sports before their leagues have made decisions, including Grinnell (Iowa), Johns Hopkins and MIT.
Carleton said no decisions had been reached on winter or spring sports.
Young said his fall coaches gave the news to players ahead of the announcement Friday. He was still optimistic last month about being able to play this fall.
“We spent a lot of time trying to put in a process where we felt we could come back safely,” Young said. “As time progressed it just didn’t feel comfortable to be able to do it. That’s the disheartening thing.”