Nestled in small towns and cities across the Northeast, few
thought that NESCAC schools would be largely affected by the CoronaVirus. After
all, NESCAC schools are not situated in global metropolises, rarely experience
mass amounts of international transit, and whose home cities are some of the
last to be considered when the national crises strike. However, as the days
wore on and the virus spread, it became evermore apparent that despite their
isolation, the NESCACs were in danger of shutting their doors.
On March 9, Amherst announced via email that it would be
transitioning to remote learning following the school’s spring break. A
suspension of spring athletics accompanied the harrowing news, ending many
seasons just weeks after they began A
day later, Middlebury and Tufts announced they would be suspending classes and
athletics as well. One by one, each NESCAC college followed suit and within
four days, there was not a single school in the NESCAC hosting spring
collegiate athletic seasons.
On March 12, 2020, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board
of Governors canceled the Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball
tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA seasons. As the
decree from the NCAA came out, countless athletes across the country learned
their 2020 season would not end in May on a track, field, or diamond, but
rather on a cold March afternoon in dorms and classrooms
For some, there were still slivers of hope. Becca Willis ‘22
and five of her teammates were in North Carolina preparing to compete in the
NCAA indoor track and field national championships when they heard the news:
Their competition, less than twenty-four hours away from commencing, would not
be taking place. In less than three days, all collegiate athletics in the
United States had been put on hold with no word on a possible return date.
The news was especially heartbreaking for seniors who had
their final season at Bates cut short. Senior Justin Levin ’20 was preparing to
run the 5000 meters at NCAA Indoor Track National Championships when he learned
he would never be running at a collegiate level again.
“It was devastating knowing that we couldn’t finish Indoor,
we knew for sure we wouldn’t have Outdoor, and for me, that meant my Bates
College running career was over.”
Although the decision to cancel seasons was made in the name
student-athlete wellbeing, many Bobcats originally expressed frustration with
the NCAA’s verdict. Elise Lambert ’22, who had her outdoor season cancelled in
light of the CoronaVirus.
“In my mind, all the athletes had already been exposed to
each other, and we had nothing to lose,” she said. “I thought that the NCAA was
making calls too early, and that this problem could maybe be solved by the
middle of our season.”
Similar sentiments were shared by softball captain Julia
Panepinto ‘20 whose final season as a Bobcat was cut short.
“I did not think it was the right decision at all, I thought
it was premature and elitist”, said Panepinto
Although there was immense frustration among players, some qualms have been addressed as the NCAA announced on March 13 that they would be extending student-athletes eligibility for another year. While it may be a logistical challenge for some, the offer is certainly appreciated by Levine who plans on competing during graduate school.
Additionally, the cancellation of spring athletics creates a massive void that completely upends athletes’ training routines. Preparations for the 2021 lacrosse season will now be increasingly difficult as it will be around eleven months until the Bobcats play their next game. Men’s Lacrosse Head Coach Peter Lasagna shared his plans for next season.
While the cancellation of the NCAA’s most premier
competitions garners the most interest, Bates’ role in Division III athletics
reveals the true size and scope of the NCAA’s cancellations. While millions of
Americans may be disheartened to miss out on thirty-two basketball games across
two days, there are deeply personal effects to the ban as well. Bates students
will have to wait until the fall to watch their classmates and friends
represent their school on Garcelon. Wednesday night lacrosse games in Short
Term will have to wait.
For Bates students and athletes alike, it is no secret that
the cancellation is a crippling blow to Bobcat pride and student morale. For
many, sports were a way to escape the rigors of Bates’ academic schedule. With
Bates athletics suspended, all Bates students can afford to do is wait and hope
to see the Bobcats back in action soon.