After Amherst cancelled on-campus classes and told students, with very few exceptions, that they were to leave the campus as soon as possible, one of the knock-on effects was the suspension and disruption of many of the school’s athletic teams’ spring schedules.
The decision, while not unexpected given the severity of COVID-19’s spread and the lack of adequate care facilities, still has struck many of the spring and winter season’s athletes harshly. This decision abruptly truncated the careers of many, if not all, of the senior student-athletes in spring and winter sports.
Amherst had already put a number of restrictions in place before Monday’s announcement. Spectators were banned from college sporting events, large gatherings were discouraged, and people from outside the Amherst community were asked to refrain from entering community spaces.
These restrictions meant that the women’s basketball team’s recent NCAA tournament contest was played in front of an empty gymnasium, with referees’ whistles and coaches’ exhortations reverberating against the spectator-less bleachers.
Meanwhile, the women’s hockey team’s first game in the NCAA tournament was played in front of an empty rink.
It remains to be seen if other winter sports, such as men’s and women’s track and field, and women’s basketball, will be allowed to continue their NCAA tournament runs given the prohibitions placed on students remaining on campus without a valid exemption.
The men’s and women’s swim and dive teams are currently scheduled to drive, rather than fly as is the norm, to the NCAA championships, to be held in North Carolina this coming week. However, North Carolina today declared a state of emergency in response to a virus outbreak in the state, throwing previous plans into a state of uncertainty.
Spring sports, on the other hand, have a more tragic certainty in hand; the college announced that it is suspending all spring seasons and athletic contests effective Wednesday evening. Teams, as a result of the decision, can resume competition if and when the college allows students to return during the spring semester. However, recent messages from the college’s administration indicate that the likelihood of a resumption of classes is low.
The athletic department, in recognition of the impact that such a decision would have on seniors whose athletic careers have come to an abrupt end, has made an effort to schedule games on Wednesday against longtime rival Williams in an effort to give those student-athletes a well-deserved final game.
On March 11, the baseball team will play Williams at home starting at 3:30 p.m, and the women’s lacrosse team will face off against Williams at home at 7:15 p.m.
The college’s efforts have not been without resistance and pushback from some student athletes and members of the extended Amherst College community. Members of the women’s lacrosse team recently launched a petition in an effort to convince the college to let the team, and others like it, decide to continue their seasons.
As the petition read, “Neither [the women’s lacrosse team’s] coaches nor athletes were consulted about how the decisions made by the school would impact the remainder of the season.” The petition continued, “We would like to petition to continue competing in spring athletics for the remainder of the semester.”
As of 11:00 p.m. on March 10, less than a day since the promulgation of the effort, the petition had over 1,100 signatures from members of the Amherst student body, Division I, II, and III athletes and former athletes, parents, relatives, and other interested parties.
The college had yet to officially respond to the petition.