NCAC suspended, athletic teams will use the fall season to train in place of a competitive season

On Wednesday, July 22, Director of Athletics and Recreation Bill Ross sent an email to the campus community announcing the North Coast Athletic Conference decision to suspend all intercollegiate competition through December 31, 2020.

The College fully supports the NCAC’s decision to suspend collegiate athletics for the fall season, according to Assistant Athletic Director for Communications Sean King.

“As members of the North Coast Athletic Conference, we adhere to the guidelines set forth by the conference leadership, including the NCAC Presidents’ Council,” King wrote in an email to the Campus.

According to the NCAC, each member institution is allowed to use the fall season for practices if they have policies in place that allow the athletic teams to comply with all safety protocols on campus. 

“Individual return-to-play protocols will be in place at each member institution to allow for an athletic experience without conventional competition within the parameters of federal, state, institutional, conference and NCAA guidance,” the NCAC announced. “In the meantime, we plan for teams to be able to practice and gather this fall under the supervision of their coaches, as long as they comply with all safety standards in place across their respective campuses.”

King declined to comment on questions regarding student-athlete safety during training and practices as well as any college-initiated COVID-19 policies for the Athletics Department.

“With the fast-changing NCAA and CDC health guidelines, we cannot comment definitively but hope to make updates available as things evolve,” Ross clarified in a statement to the Campus.

Sports teams that traditionally compete during the fall semester, including Men’s and Women’s Basketball, Men’s and Women’s Cross Country, Men’s and Women’s Golf, Men’s and Women’s Soccer, Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving, Women’s Field Hockey, Women’s Volleyball and Men’s Football will be impacted by the NCAC decision.

“I am disappointed that we will not have a fall season since we also did not get to finish the spring season previously, though I understand that the decision was made with the mindset of what would be best for the athletes and anyone involved during the pandemic,” said Women’s Golf athlete Lilian Fogland, ’23. “Although I am sad that we won’t have a fall season this year, I am grateful that the NCAC took measures to try and limit the spread and exposure of the virus. I think it was a good decision to err on the side of caution and limit the risk factor of anyone getting sick during tournaments since people can be asymptomatic though still pass the virus to others.”

Golf will lose the fall portion of its athletic season, however, the team is very hopeful that they can move forward with the spring season, according to Head Coach Jeff Groff. 

“I, as well as my other teammates, were saddened to hear about the season cancellation,” said Men’s Soccer midfielder and forward Tighe Raymond, ’23. “Many of us have been working and training hard for the fall, so it was difficult to hear about the decision. This would have been our senior class’s last fall season and it is hard to imagine how they must feel. However, people’s health and safety are important, so I can understand where the NCAC’s decision is coming from.”

John Ian Duron, ’23, a running back for Men’s Football, expressed his disappointment regarding the loss of a competitive season, however, he is optimistic about using this season to train. 

“I am very disappointed, but I expected (the decision) because I have kept up with the news, especially because I live in Florida,” Duron said. “I have to move past (the disappointment) and keep moving forward.”

Many athletic teams will use the entire fall season or a portion of it to train and prepare student-athletes for the recommencement of intercollegiate competition. According to the NCAC, while student-athletes may not experience a conventional athletic season, the teams will still be able to participate in their sport without concern of any NCAA eligibility issues. 

“We will come together for weight training and conditioning and progress as the NCAA and the school allow (the team),” said Men’s Football Head Coach Rich Nagy. “The beginning will be hybrid due to the protocols put in place by the NCAA and the College.” 

Men’s Football will utilize the David V. Wise Center for group practices and training with a tentative start date around Sept. 14.

“(Men’s Soccer) plans on training and lifting in smaller groups in the beginning phases, and then progressing to a full team practice,” Head Coach Angelo Panzetta wrote in an email to the Campus. “I plan on training for five to six weeks this fall semester.” 

To ensure student-athlete safety, new protocols have been implemented regarding locker room and shower usage as well as hybrid training schedules, Panzetta added. 

“We will follow all the guidelines of the Allegheny College Health Agency along with the recommendations of our Athletic training staff,” Panzetta said. “The players will have to adjust, one example is, coming from their dorm, training, and going back to their dorm shower will be part of the new routine. The locker room will only be used by a few teammates at a time for quickly changing.”

Athletic teams that use local amenities, such as Men’s and Women’s Golf, can use Crawford County facilities at this time. Men’s and Women’s Golf use the driving range and putting green for their practices at the local Crawford County country club, however, the golf room is available at the Wise Center to replace the country club if required. 

“We are hopeful that, at some point when students come back, we can practice at the country club, which is our home course,” Groff said. “We will also do conditioning and other training at the Wise Center.”

According to Groff, team practices and training will obey guidelines set forth by the college and remain tentative at the moment. A hybrid schedule may be used if the Wise Center is not suitable for the entire team to utilize the space in a socially-distanced manner. 

The Class of 2024 will begin their athletic experience at Allegheny College in an unconventional manner akin to their entire first-year due to COVID-19.

“This is as new and as different than any of us have experienced so (you) are not alone,” Fogland said. “(You) should continue to play or practice (your) respective sport despite the changes to the best of (your) ability. We don’t know how long the pandemic will continue, though we can try to make the best of the situation. Part of life is adapting and figuring it out along the way.”

Fogland advised incoming first-year students to reach out and stay in constant communication with one another and the team as they are navigating the new procedures as well. 

“I know that the golf team will do as much as they can to try and make up for the lack of tournaments through team games and modified practice during this time,”  Fogland said. “Obviously each of the (first-years’) experiences will be totally different, and to that, I say hang in there, talk to your teammates and coaches if you have any reservations and questions, they are like a second family.”

Fogland is hopeful for a potential spring season with competitions even if restrictions need to be in place to safely compete. 

“It is (your) first year on this campus and this season gives (you) the opportunity to explore the college,” Men’s Football punter Marcus Wolf, ‘22, said. 

Wolf advised first-year students to try out different activities on campus, focus on academics and stay on top of schoolwork.

According to Panzetta, Men’s Soccer has spent the summer advising athletes to be flexible and ready to change on a moment’s notice. The first-years will have a six-week window of collegiate soccer training.

“This semester is going to be like no other,” Panzetta wrote. “The plan could change at any given day or week, “stay flexible,” adjust and keep a positive mindset, control what (you) can control and do not get frustrated.”

Panzetta emphasized the importance of keeping both oneself and the community safe by following the guidelines provided by the college. 

“(First-year students) get to learn about the school without feeling the pressure of playing a game on Saturday,” Nagy said. “They will be able to acclimate college life a little better, which is my hope and utilize that time to learn how to become a college student.” 

Nagy advised the Class of 2024 to use this time to get acclimated to the campus without the stress of competition and to use training and practice sessions to connect with teammates and the staff. 

“Nobody can predict what is going to happen in week two or even a month down the road so we have to stay fluid with it,” Nagy added. “You just have to keep rolling with what is going on right now. Whatever (NCAC and the college) allow us to do, we will do.”

Groff advised all first-year athletes as well as returning athletes to focus on the spring season and to look ahead for the future.

“Those that are here, we will get our practice in and just look forward to the spring,” Groff said. “We have a great group and we all see the bigger picture so, yes, it hurts to be a student-athlete and to lose a part of your season but we have the spring and there was nothing that we could do, so we are going to make the best of it and look to the future.”

For student-athletes in the class of 2021, this season marks the end of their Allegheny College athletic experience unless there is a spring season.

“Plan that there may be a spring season but know that we may have to pivot and switch,” Nagy advised seniors. “Keep faith that there will be something, train and stay positive. Hopefully, there will be a spring season but if there is not, there are still the positives of being able to be around their friends and teammates one last time.” 

Nagy expressed his support for senior athletes and hopes that, if there is a spring season, the seniors may have a proper end to their Allegheny football career. In the event of a spring season, the team could expect a potential four to five games. 

“We have a great group of seniors on the team,” Wolf said. “(The team) is going to miss them when they graduate.”

Groff emphasized that the current circumstances were out of anyone’s control so the team will make the best of the situation. 

“Focus on what (you) can control,” Groff said. “COVID-19 has taken its toll in lots of different areas and a lot of different ways so (we) are going to try to make the best of it this fall season.” 

Seniors may have the opportunity to return for a fifth season of competition in the fall of 2021 if they chose, Panzetta added. Panzetta recommended that senior athletes make a well-informed decision and discuss the choices with family, staff and fellow seniors. 

 “I understand their frustration as an ex-collegiate player, so much work goes into the preparation for the senior year,” Panzetta wrote. “As I have already told them, I will support and assist them in whatever decisions they make regarding their eligibility. The staff is here for them.”