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DIII League Cancels Winter Sports; RIT Fights for Hockey

Brock Fritz

Liberty League winter sports will not tip off in 2020-21.

According to a statement released Monday, the conference’s Presidents Council voted to cancel all winter sports competition due to COVID-19. The Liberty League, which became the eighth NCAA Division III conference to cancel all winter sports, traditionally offers men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s squash, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, and men’s and women’s indoor track and field in the winter.

“The decision to cancel Liberty League competition and championships was made after careful consideration and review of relevant facts and data,” Liberty League commissioner Tracy King said in the conference’s release. “COVID-19 infection rates continue to increase throughout the country and we have also seen spikes in our college communities, which creates additional challenges for our institutions. We understand the deep sense of disappointment felt by our student-athletes that have trained and prepared for competition and we understand and share in their disappointment. Our institutions will continue to work to provide meaningful athletic opportunities to support our student-athletes.”

The Liberty League is made up of Bard, Clarkson, Hobart, Ithaca, the University of Rochester, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the Rochester Institute of Technology, St. Lawrence, Skidmore, Union, Vassar and William Smith. Buffalo State, New York, St. John Fisher and Wellesley are associate members.

Conference members are still allowed to engage “in student-athlete activities that are conducted in accordance with Division III regulations as well as institutional, state and local health and safety guidelines.”

The Rochester Institute of Technology in New York opted to cancel all winter sports competition, including their Division I hockey seasons.

"This was a very difficult decision and we understand the disappointment this brings to our student-athletes and coaches," RIT president David Munson said. "But given the rise in COVID-19 in our community, as well as across the nation and globe, this is the right thing to do for athletes and community safety.”

The RIT men’s hockey team plays in the Atlantic Hockey Association, while the women play in College Hockey America. The school’s statement said that, even though those conferences plan to play this winter, the obstacles are too high.

"Campus leadership has been meeting regularly to discuss the prospect of safely conducting winter sports competitions under the backdrop of extensive NCAA, New York State, Department of Health and university guidelines aimed at keeping our community safe," RIT executive director of athletics Lou Spiotti Jr. said. "In spite of our efforts, the virus continues to spread throughout the region and we could not justify a season of competition for any of our teams."

A petition has been started to save the 2020-21 season for the RIT men’s hockey team, which went 19-13-4 last season.

“The cancellation came with no notice or consideration to the team's season and the work they have put in thus far,” the petition reads. “This decision came in conjunction with the cancellation of the school's Division III Liberty League winter sports. However, the men's hockey team is not affiliated with the Liberty League. We are a member of the Atlantic Hockey Association, which is still having a season. 
“We ask for your support and signature on this petition to show RIT President Munson and his staff how much of a negative impact the cancellation of hockey will have on the RIT community and to consider reversing their decision.”

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