Last Monday, the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC), home to a majority of SUNY’s non-Division I athletics programs, officially announced its cancellation of winter sports.
“This was not an easy decision and I empathize with all of our student-athletes across the SUNYAC,” said SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum, the chair of SUNYAC presidents. “However, despite our best efforts to plan for a winter season, our priority must be the health and safety of everyone involved with intercollegiate athletics, and our campuses as a whole.”
On July 20, the SUNYAC released its first statement suspending fall sports and delaying the start of winter athletics until Jan. 1. However, its most recent announcement will cancel men’s and women’s basketball, track and field, swimming and diving and men’s ice hockey.
All 10 schools in the conference are SUNY schools, and their student-athletes will be sidelined during the winter season as a result of health and safety concerns expressed by SUNYAC officials. Cortland, Oneonta and Oswego are among the schools nearest to Binghamton in the conference.
Inside and outside of athletics, several of those institutions have encountered issues with COVID-19 cases throughout the semester. Ever since Cortland was forced to push its classes online earlier this month, the school has yet to reopen in-person learning as well as athletic activities. Oneonta faced a similar fate in September after it had the most severe coronavirus outbreak of any public university in the state, totaling 700 cases on campus and leading to the resignation of the college’s president.
Ice hockey is perhaps the most popular SUNYAC sport, and Potsdam, a SUNYAC member, has only totaled seven cases on campus as of Oct. 21. Just weeks before the SUNYAC’s statement, a tentative winter schedule was created, intending to start conference sports around February. As of last Monday, the entire plan was scrapped.
“I’m just disappointed with everything,” said Jim Bechtel, Potsdam men’s basketball head coach, per NNY360.com. “I understand the health and safety logistics are challenging. It’s been a bit of an emotional roller coaster for sure, with the excitement of the schedule coming out and then having the season canceled.”
While winter sports are completely canceled, the SUNYAC has yet to make a decision regarding spring sports.