The University of New Hampshire Department of Athletics has announced the postponement of all fall sports for the duration of the fall semester in a Friday afternoon press release. Programs that are affected by this announcement include men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey, women’s volleyball and football.
“It is with a very heavy heart that we are announcing the postponement of all fall sport programs due to the COVID pandemic,” said Marty Scarano, UNH director of athletics.
Scarano noted that the programs have been working with the university along with the America East Conference and the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) to try and work out a plan that would best suit the athletes, coaches along with the other involved parties. He explained how his fellow athletic directors and conference commissioners met daily to discuss possibilities of ways to get the student athletes on the field this fall.
As of three weeks ago, Scarano said that he and his colleagues felt confident enough in the trend of the virus that they would have been able to move forward with sports beginning this fall.
“The pandemic had somewhat flattened, certainly here in New Hampshire and the national trend was fairly positive, and then when the pandemic took the awful turn that it did after the Fourth of July it became increasingly obvious that we weren’t going to put our student athletes in as good of a position as we had hoped relative to their safety and welfare, and it probably was going to stress the resources of the university. In many ways it wasn’t the right thing to do,” Scarano said.
UNH President James Dean, along with other presidents within the conferences, played a heavy hand in the final decision as well. This was the first time the presidents had intervened to such an extent in the CAA according to Scarano.
Postponing some of the team’s seasons while moving forward with others was never in the discussion according to Scarano, “it was always going to be all or nothing,” he emphasized.
Amidst the discussions that took place over the last several weeks, the school had been preparing for a multitude of scheduling options for each program. Some of the ideas included “pods” for the soccer programs consisting of a north and a south division.
An option that was on the table for football was a double round robin that would’ve had the Wildcats playing the universities in New England twice.
“The fact is that we would’ve rather play something than nothing,” Scarano said. “But as it all played out with COVID and the trends, it wasn’t going to work, which is why we made the decision last week that we were going to pull the plug on it.”
The press release from UNH’s Department of Athletics noted that the school and league affiliates are looking into the possibility of moving fall sports to the spring semester. Scarano admitted that it’s going to be tough, but if the trends of the virus can start to consistently drop then he remains confident a season can be played in the spring.
“It’ll be quite something to witness if we can pull it off. We don’t want any of our athletes to lose this year of competition, so we’re all going to work like heck to get the fall sports on the field in the spring. That’s our number one ambition and we’re going to embark on that right away and start working on that.”
As for the winter sports, whose seasons usually kick off towards the end of the first semester, their season remains up in the air. The school along with the Hockey East conference have already begun discussions about the season. Scarano wouldn’t rule out sports like hockey and basketball starting on time, but the door is very much open to those being pushed beyond the new year.
Events that have coincided with UNH football in the past are Homecoming Weekend and Family Weekend, both of which have also been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These events were originally scheduled for Oct. 2-3 and Oct. 10-11.