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Dartmouth fall sports on hold as Ivy League cancels season

  • Dartmouth College defensive linemen Seth Simmer (96) and David Chalmers embrace last November after their team rallied for a 29-23 defeat of Brown and earned a share of the Ivy League title. valley news file

  • Dartmouth’s Milla Anderson is lifted into the air by teammates Maya Perkins, left, and Marin Pennell during their 19-14 victory over Harvard in the 2018 NIRA national championship game. valley new file photo —Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/9/2020 2:03:05 PM

The Dartmouth College sports scene will remain quiet for a second successive season, the product of the Ivy League’s announcement on Wednesday that fall sports will not be played as scheduled.

The Ivy League Council of Presidents, in an afternoon news release, couched the cancellation of fall athletics within the framework of broader coronavirus-influenced restrictions to be put in place for the upcoming school year. Those constraints will cover student and staff travel, social distancing requirements, group gathering limits and regulations on visitors to campus.

“As athletics is expected to operate consistent with campus policies, it will not be possible for Ivy League teams to participate in intercollegiate athletics competition prior to the end of the fall semester,” the statement read.

The presidents of all eight Ivy League institutions, including Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon, signed onto the statement. The college’s fall semester ends on Dec. 4.

The likelihood of another lost season grew since the end of June as Ivy schools announced fall restart plans that, for almost all members, included only a portion of their usual on-campus student populations.

Fall athletes won’t lose a season of competitive eligibility and could see their campaigns play out next spring. The fate of winter and spring sports “will be determined at a later date,” the presidents said.

“The health and safety of our students is of paramount importance, but I am heartbroken that our student-athletes won’t get the opportunity to compete this fall,” Dartmouth athletic director Harry Sheehy said in a prepared statement. “They have spent countless hours and put tremendous effort into training for their respective sports, and while they will still have some athletic experiences on campus, it obviously is not the same without going head-to-head against your peers from other institutions. I hope that we as a nation can slow the spread of this virus so we can return to a semblance of normalcy as quickly as possible and our student-athletes can once again compete for Ivy League championships.”

Sheehy was unavailable for further comment on Wednesday evening.

Athletes on campus during fall term will be able to work out in school facilities, within the bounds of school and state regulations. Dartmouth sponsors football, soccer, field hockey, cross country, golf, tennis, equestrian, crew, sailing, women’s volleyball and women’s rugby in autumn.

Big Green football coach Buddy Teevens saw the news coming.

“As a football coach, it’s hard to take, and as a player, it’s the last thing you want to hear,” Teevens said in a phone interview from Florida, where he’s been working since the closure of Dartmouth’s campus in March. “We went through this with spring student-athletes and saw how difficult it was. But life moves on.

“One thing is the Ivies and NCAA will consider the extra year of eligibility; last spring, that wasn’t the case. Being the optimist, I’m, ‘OK, I have an opportunity to train these guys through the course of a year. Spring season is still in question.’ ... I’ll focus on that.”

Women’s soccer coach Ron Rainey’s Lebanon High athlete children, Wade and Sally, had their respective basketball seasons abruptly stopped by the pandemic in the midst of state playoffs. While the reality of Wednesday’s news had been growing, it didn’t change Rainey’s level of disappointment, nor that of his Big Green players.

“We’re in a public health emergency; it’s just tough because of the little bit of helplessness in it,” Rainey said. “In that same way, I’m wanting to turn around and say, ‘If we look at the big scope, we’re still going to be able to experience Dartmouth and be given an opportunity to play a little.’ I’m looking at those positives, because I have to, knowing that there’s a ton going through much harder things with COVID right now.”

The Ivies drew national attention to the fate of college sports with their initial reaction to the COVID-19 outbreak four months ago. At that time, the league went from considering limited attendance at its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments to canceling them outright on March 10. The rest of the winter season and the whole of spring athletics got the ax 24 hours later. The rest of the nation’s college and pro sports leagues eventually followed suit.

The eight Ivy schools have been releasing their fall academic plans over the past two weeks. All have made continued online instruction a major part of their scenarios. Cornell University is the only league member hoping to have its entire student body back for fall; the remainder will cap the on-campus student presence at between 40% and 60% of normal.

The Ivy League’s fall sports cancellation may start to lend clarity to other levels of intercollegiate athletics. Peers at both the FBS and FCS levels of football have told Teevens they may need to spend $500,000 for the frequent testing required to have a fall season. Big-time college athletic programs might be able to afford that; the likes of the Ivies can’t.

“It’s hard being the first one, but I realized and felt like this all along: This thing didn’t look good,” Teevens said. “Safety has to be the driving force and the decision-making tool.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.

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