SUNYAC Cancels Winter Sports

SUNYAC Logo (courtesy sunyacsports.com)

By Matt Noonan

Another NCAA D-III conference has announced its plans for the upcoming winter sports season.

Just a short time ago, the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) announced they have canceled the 2020-21 winter season.

The sports impacted by today’s decision are the following: men’s and women’s basketball, men’s ice hockey, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, and men’s and women’s indoor track and field.

As noted in this afternoon’s release, which can be seen on the conference’s website, the health and safety of “everyone involved with intercollegiate athletics,” along with each and every campus was why the conference made the difficult decision, according to Erik Bitterbaum, who is the chair of the SUNYAC Presidents.

While this is not the first announcement regarding the upcoming college winter sports season from the NCAA D-III world, it certainly won’t be the last. Earlier this month the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) called off winter sports while the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) has canceled conference play, including championships.

Basketball Notebook: Sheldon Announces Retirement From Tufts University

Bob Sheldon, who has coached the Tufts University men’s basketball team for three decades, announced his retirement Thursday. (PHOTO COURTESY: TuftsNow)

By Matt Noonan 

Prior to yesterday’s announcement from the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) regarding an update on the upcoming winter sports season, which has been canceled, Bob Sheldon, who has guided the Tufts University men’s basketball team for the past 33 years, announced he will be stepping down effectively on Thursday, December 31, 2020. 

Matt Malone, who has been an assistant under Sheldon for the past 15 years, will take over as the interim coach, according to Wednesday’s (Oct. 7) release from the Tufts University athletic department

Sheldon and the Jumbos matched a program record for wins (23) this past winter while capturing their first-ever NESCAC Tournament Championship by outlasting Colby College in double-overtime

“I was getting near the end of my career as it was, and then when Covid came up and the craziness with that, I just felt that it was time for me to go,” said Sheldon, via the Tufts athletic department story, which can be seen (and read) on the school’s athletic website. 

Sheldon noted he “went back and forth” with his decision to retire, but seems content with his choice to leave a program that he believes is in “a good spot going forward.” 

Prior to their season concluding earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Tufts won a pair of NCAA D-III Tournament games in Medford, including a come-from-behind win over Western Connecticut in the opening round. 

Sheldon, who is the program’s all-time winningest coach, would have entered his team’s 2020-21 season as one of the Top 25 NCAA D-III winningest coaches after being named the NESCAC and National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Northeast Region Coach of the Year in March. 

The 2020-21 NESCAC winter sports season has been canceled: As noted above, the NESCAC became the first New England D-III conference to cancel its upcoming winter sports season on Thursday, October 7, after postponing its fall season on Friday, July 10

While health and safety were stressed in yesterday’s release regarding the decision by the conference’s presidents, the NESCAC did note that some of their schools have made “significant modifications” to their current academic calendar, which would limit the number of games each program would be able to compete in.  

The NESCAC has made no announcement regarding spring sports – an update will most likely come in a few months – but the conference did say the league’s 11 schools could schedule non-conference games if they choose to. However, D3Sports.com has reported that some schools within the conference have already made decisions for its various winter sports programs, including Middlebury College, which announced yesterday that they “will not hold any athletic competitions during the winter season.” 

Elms College to join the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC): While it is uncertain if and when Elms College will resume athletic competition in the next few weeks or months, the athletic department did announce some exciting news earlier this week about joining the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) for the 2022-23 school year. 

The Blazers currently compete in the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) and would join a former member of the eight-team league – that would be Dean College – which joined the GNAC as a full-time member at the start of the current academic year (2020-21)

Both Elms College basketball teams competed last winter in the NECC Tournament with the women’s squad advancing to the conference championship game against Mitchell College

The GNAC has welcomed a few new schools to its conference over the past few years, including Regis College in Weston, Massachusetts in 2017, and Colby-Sawyer in 2018. 

Football Friday: Revisiting Middlebury’s Perfect 2019 Season

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Middlebury College quarterback Will Jernigan guided the Panthers to its third perfect season in program history in 2019. (PHOTO COURTESY: Will Costello)

By Matt Noonan 

Happy Friday, everyone.

And welcome to our first of many ‘Football Friday’ posts, which will revisit (and yes, highlight, too) previous campaigns, stories, and games we have covered since our blog began pressing the publish button back in May 2009.

Today, we’re revisiting last year’s perfect season by the Middlebury College football team, which saw the Panthers win nine games, as well as capture the 2019 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) title.

The 2019 NESCAC crown was the team’s first outright title since 2007. It was also the program’s fourth championship – they shared the crown in 2000 and 2013.

Middlebury’s run toward its first conference crown in nearly a decade featured many twists and turns, including an epic double-overtime win over Amherst College (34-31), along with two hard-fought season-ending victories against Hamilton College (14-7) and Tufts University (31-24). 

While the team’s three-point win over the Mammoths may have been their most thrilling victory of the 2019 season, they also scored some dramatic (and last second) victories against Colby College (27-26) and Williams College (17-13).

The one-point win over the Mules was something I discussed with Colby’s head coach Jack Cosgrove earlier this summer – he told me it “would have been a great win for (his) program.”

Middlebury, which entered the game riding a four-game winning streak, was held to just seven points in the final frame while the visitors produced 13 points on two touchdowns – they almost finished the frame with 16 points, but a game-ending 29-yard field goal sailed wide of the goalposts.

“Yeah, we were in a football game,” Cosgrove said of his team’s heartbreaking defeat to the Panthers.

But beyond their epic and dramatic finishes, Middlebury’s most impressive performance of the 2019 season occurred one week after their win over Colby when they defeated Wesleyan University in a battle of undefeated teams.

Middlebury beat Wesleyan, 45-21 while finishing the game with 529 yards of total offense. Will Jernigan, who was named the NESCAC Offensive Player of the Year, concluded the highly anticipated matchup with four touchdown passes, while halfback Alex Maldjian rushed for a game-high 95 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns.

Jack Pistorius led the Panthers defense with 10 total tackles, including two sacks for a loss of 11 yards while Nick Leone finished with four total stops, which included three tackles for a loss of 12 yards.

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Middlebury College’s Will Jernigan was named the 2019 NESCAC Offensive Player of the Year. (PHOTO COURTESY: Will Costello)

Middlebury would continue its winning ways over the next three weeks to cap its perfect season, but as noted above, their final two victories over Hamilton and Tufts were certainly not easy.

The Continentals of Hamilton limited the Panthers to their fewest points in a single contest (14) – they also kept Middlebury off the scoreboard for three-straight quarters.

Against the Jumbos, Middlebury needed its defense to fend off a late rally by Tufts, which came within one touchdown with 13 seconds remaining. The Panthers recovered the onside kick on the ensuing kickoff to not only seal the win but cap its magical season with a perfect season.

Unfortunately, the Panthers won’t have a chance to defend their conference crown this fall due to the conference canceling competition because of the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, but you can bet that Middlebury would have been ready to go toe-to-toe with its conference foes, including both Wesleyan and Williams College, which finished their respective campaigns with identical 8-1 records.

The 2019 NESCAC football season was exciting, but the wait for its next kickoff – not just Middlebury’s, but all 10 teams – will certainly be worth it.

It’s Time To Pull The Plug On College Football, Fall Sports

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Is it time to pull the plug on college football, as well as all fall sports? (PHOTO COURTESY: Matt Noonan/NoontimeSports.com)

By Matt Noonan 

It’s time to pull the plug on the upcoming college football season. It is also time to call off any and all fall sports, including field hockey, soccer, and volleyball contests.

Canceling sporting events is no easy task. These are hard decisions, but we have to respect the conferences and schools that have already elected to forgo the upcoming fall sports season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic so they can keep not just their student-athletes safe and healthy, but also their coaches, fans, and team representatives.

Playing football or any sport during a pandemic just doesn’t seem feasible at a time when various states across the country are experiencing an uptick in cases.

Sure, some may think conferences like the Ivy League or New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) should have waited an extra week or two, but remember, they were the ones leading the way back in March when everyone was ordered to shelter in place.

Today’s news of the Patriot League means more announcements are coming. And again, we need to be respectful to any and all decisions that are made.

This past weekend, perhaps the true voice of college football – that would be Greg Sankey, who is the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) – acknowledged in an interview with Marty & McGee on ESPN Radio that “we are running out of time to correct and get things right.”

If Sankey is concerned about the upcoming college football season, then you should be, too. And if there is no SEC football this fall, then expect no other league to play, as well.

More decisions are coming. And again, we need to be respectful to whatever these colleges and conferences decide to do. But with so much uncertainty heading into the upcoming school year, it just seems unlikely that any of us will see a college sporting event take place either here in Massachusetts or around the country until next January. And that is fine with me. 

The NESCAC Cancels Fall Sports

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PHOTO COURTESY: NESCAC.com

By NoontimeSports.com

The New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) will not be playing fall sports this year, according to this afternoon’s announcement.

Today’s announcement follows previous decisions made by other conferences and schools, including Bowdoin College which was the first member of the NESCAC to cancel its fall sports season, while also delaying the start of its winter sports season until next January.

Amherst College and Williams College also announced recently that none of their respective fall sports programs would be competing this year, including the both football teams that have been competing in the ‘Biggest Little Game’ since 1884.

Bates College will also not be playing fall sports either as the athletic department made the decision just a short time ago.

The NESCAC cited “the health and well-being of students, faculty, staff, and the broader community the foremost concern” with making the decision to cancel the fall sports season for its 11 members, along with its seven championships they sponsor.

Middlebury College, which captured last year’s NESCAC Field Hockey championship, defeated Franklin & Marshall in the national title game while Tufts University captured the NCAA D-III men’s championship with a 2-0 win over Amherst College.

Middlebury and Tufts have yet to cancel or suspend their respective fall sports programs as of this afternoon.

According to D3Playbook.com, the NESCAC is not the first D-III conference to either cancel or suspend fall sports. The Centennial Conference (CC) announced earlir this week that none of their schools would play fall sports, including football, while a few conferences hope to play only league games this fall.