In a reversal of its initial policy regarding fall 2020 sports, Vassar College has decided not to participate in intercollegiate sports during the coming semester. The Liberty League also announced this afternoon that they have canceled the fall conference. The Presidents Council of the Liberty League, on which President Elizabeth Bradley sits, voted unanimously in favor of cancellation. “I am deeply appreciative of the collaboration with the presidents of the Liberty League members; together we made a decision that is in the best interest of our student-athletes as well as our larger campus communities,” said Bradley.
Director of Athletics Michelle Walsh announced the new policy during a Zoom webinar for student athletes and followed up with an email to student-athletes, in which she stated, “Please know that the athletics department is already well into planning ways for all of you to safely participate in training and development activities this fall, including in-person practices and instruction, strength and conditioning training, student-athlete development programming, and leadership training.”
The original plan for Vassar sports during the fall involved a delayed return to competition—beginning in late September—and a practice of testing every athlete for COVID-19 upon their return to campus after an away game. The former policy, as outlined on the VassarTogether website, said, “Vassar plans to operate intercollegiate athletics this fall with enhanced safety protocols and a reduced schedule of competitions.” Aside from potential allowances of field trips later in the semester, athletes would have been the only students allowed off campus. While many students welcomed a return to athletics, others offered criticism of the plan, noting that they had not entered into safety agreements with other schools in the Liberty League, as well as the fact that other leagues, such as the New England Sports Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) and the Ivy League, had canceled their fall sports programs.
In a statement to The Miscellany News, Bradley underscored the consideration gone into the choice to suspend intercollegiate athletics. “Vassar did not come to this decision easily, as we understand the importance of competition to our student-athletes, and to the community as a whole. Much has changed since we initially planned to proceed with a modified fall athletics schedule, however, and we believe that based on current conditions and guidance from public health experts, we cannot proceed with a schedule of athletic competition at this time. There is too much at stake. The safety of our community is paramount,” she said. “I want to thank the many people who have engaged in deep conversation about this, most especially our Director of Athletics Michelle Walsh, but also members of our faculty, coaches, student athletes and administrators, all of whom worked to find the best solution for our campus.”
On-campus practices for Vassar athletes will resume September 7, the same time as meetings for other campus orgs. While these practices will not eat into athletes’ four years of college-level eligibility, athletes will still be credited for their participation.