Following the abrupt cancellation of spring sports last semester and the postponement of this fall’s athletics competitions, it has been over seven months since any Binghamton University or America East Conference (AE) team last competed due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, an end to the drought is on the horizon.
On Monday afternoon, the AE released its return to competition plan, announcing Dec. 19 as the start to the conference basketball season. The official men’s and women’s basketball schedules will be announced in early November.
After NJIT joined the conference over the summer, it was assumed that the men’s and women’s basketball conference schedules would shift from 16 to 18 games, retaining the same home-and-home round-robin format. That 18-game double round-robin schedule will be in effect this year as expected, but with notable distinctions from the normal structure.
Instead of the typical Wednesday and Saturday schedule, the season will consist of a two-game weekend series in which the same teams play back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday at the same site. With the start date set for Saturday, Dec. 19, approximately two weeks earlier than usual, the schedule will be constructed with weekends left open later in the season to allow for postponed games to be rescheduled.
“We acknowledge this will be a unique season with many variables both within and outside of our control, but we will continue working with relevant stakeholder groups as we build towards a basketball season that prioritizes the health and safety of our teams and broader campus communities,” said AE Commissioner Amy Huchthausen. “While we continue moving forward with preparations, we are realistic that adaptation and flexibility are critical as conditions evolve in order to successfully navigate this season.”
Regarding nonconference games, there is a three-week gap between the NCAA’s official start date of Nov. 25 and the beginning of AE play. It is up to each institution whether to schedule nonconference matchups during that period or not. Nothing has been revealed thus far regarding Binghamton’s nonconference plans, but other schools in the AE have been rumored to be participating in a variety of nonconference matchups and multi-team events.
As of now, two conferences in the country are expected to scrap nonconference play entirely: the Patriot League and Ivy League. Those two leagues are among the most geographically similar to the AE, and their member institutions include Bucknell, Cornell, Colgate, Lafayette and Lehigh, several of Binghamton’s most frequent nonconference opponents.
Notably absent from the AE’s statement were details regarding the format of the men’s and women’s basketball conference championships. Aside from the obstacles caused by the pandemic, the addition of a 10th member to the conference in the offseason could mean changes to the postseason format going forward.
In July, the AE announced that fall sports would be postponed to the spring semester. Along with the update to the status of basketball season, the conference laid out its plan to hold seasons for all five fall sports in the spring.
Men’s and women’s soccer will play six-game conference schedules, beginning Feb. 26 for the men and March 7 for the women. The conference championships are scheduled to be held beginning on April 15, consisting of a four-team bracket with all games played at a single site.
Volleyball will play a 12-match double round-robin schedule beginning on Feb. 28, with the top two finishers playing a championship match on April 4.
The AE’s cross country and track and field programs will see one of the most substantial disruptions to their season, with this year’s indoor track and field conference championship being canceled. The cross country teams, which traditionally compete in the fall, will hold seasons during the typical indoor track season, with the AE Cross Country Championship meet scheduled for March 5.
Field hockey, the lone AE fall sport in which Binghamton does not sponsor a team, will be played in the spring as well, with the season being held from March 19 to April 17.
Swimming and diving, while considered a winter sport, traditionally begins its season in October and concludes with the AE championships in February. This year’s competitions will be held entirely in the spring semester, with dates to be determined in the coming weeks.
No details have been announced as of yet regarding the logistics of the spring athletics season, which traditionally begins in mid-February. Considering the changes to the winter and fall seasons’ scheduling formats, it is reasonable to expect that Binghamton’s baseball, softball and lacrosse seasons will look different than usual.
Few details are available regarding the status of the four BU teams that do not compete in the AE. However, in August, the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) released a statement recommending that competitions for its members begin no earlier than Jan. 1 and stated that the EIWA Championships would remain scheduled for the first weekend of March.
For Binghamton’s golf and men’s and women’s tennis teams, there have been no announcements regarding the plans for a spring season from their respective conferences.