One year ago, the collegiate athletics world was upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the initial shutdown, Binghamton’s 21 Division I athletics teams were dormant for eight months before returning to action in December.
At Sunday’s women’s soccer game, a small number of fans returned to the Bearcats Sports Complex for the first time since the initial shutdown, and there seems to be a degree of normalcy for Binghamton’s student-athletes. At the anniversary of one of the most unprecedented days in sports history, Pipe Dream looks back at how BU sports have been affected throughout the past 12 months.
While the Binghamton women’s lacrosse team was hosting Colgate in a matinee, the sports world began to feel the effects of the pandemic for the first time. Earlier in the day, the Ivy League surprised many when it became the first conference in the country to shut down spring sports. During the game, the NCAA announced that its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments would be played without spectators. A few hours after the Bearcats beat the Raiders, the NBA became the first professional league to pause competition, setting the stage for an unprecedented 24 hours.
In one of the most surreal days in North American sports history, nearly every sports league in America was shut down. As Division I conferences were playing their basketball tournaments, teams were pulled off the court and championships were suspended throughout the day. In the early evening, the America East Conference (AE) officially announced that athletics competitions were canceled for the remainder of the academic year. In an instant, several of Binghamton’s teams saw their seasons unexpectedly canceled.
Immediately after spring sports were suspended, athletes, coaches and fans began lobbying the NCAA to grant affected student-athletes an additional year of eligibility. A few weeks after the season was canceled, that request was granted. Across four teams, 10 seniors that were set to run out of eligibility chose to come back for an unexpected extra year of competition.
As the summer progressed, it became clear that mid-major conferences in the Northeast were not going to be playing fall sports as scheduled. The Ivy League was once again the first to nix competition, followed by the Patriot League, Atlantic 10 and then the AE. As they could not be played as scheduled, the decision was made to postpone Binghamton’s soccer, volleyball and cross-country seasons to the spring semester, and they are currently underway. After deciding the status of fall sports, the AE’s attention turned to ensuring that its basketball seasons would be able to happen.
With the start of basketball season on the horizon a few months into the semester, the AE officially announced its plans to resume competition. Plans were unveiled to play a full 18-game double round-robin conference schedule, albeit with some adjustments to the traditional schedule format. The league also revealed the schedule format and championship details for its five fall sports, which would be held in the spring semester.
Nearly eight months after the last BU sporting event, the Binghamton women’s basketball team took to the Events Center court and ended the drought. The Bearcats were defeated by Fairleigh Dickinson that night, but they proved it was possible for BU to find a way to play during the pandemic. Men’s basketball opened its season three days later, followed by wrestling the next month. Since then, most of Binghamton’s teams have begun competition, and the remainder will be opening their seasons in the next few weeks.
Student-athletes reflect on how the pandemic has affected their lives
As the crisis evolved throughout 2020, several Binghamton student-athletes have spoken to Pipe Dream about its effect on themselves and their teams. Those stories are linked below.