In response to the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and with the health, safety and well-being of our campus and athletic communities being paramount, the Northeast Conference (NEC) Council of Presidents voted to postpone all fall sports athletics competition and championships. This postponement applies to NEC sponsored sports and impacts men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball, as well as all other NEC sports scheduled to engage in competition this fall. The Council agreed to reconvene again by October 1 to evaluate the public health crisis and competitive options moving forward.
Guided by the NEC’s commitment to preserve and sustain the student-athlete experience as a core endeavor of the institutional educational mission, the Council of Presidents exhausted every option to develop policies and protocols that would support a safe return to play progression this fall prior to making this decision. Ultimately, the persistence of the virus and the potential for exposure among student-athletes, coaches, administrators, support staff, fans and local communities, coupled with the need to safely reopen NEC campuses this fall, made it impossible to execute a return to competition at this time without undue risk.
To enhance the experience for all student-athletes this fall, opportunities for practice, skill instruction, team and individual meetings, strength and conditioning and athletic training will be made available at each institution’s discretion in adherence with conference protocols and NCAA rules, along with campus, local and state health and safety guidelines.
Statement from NEC Commissioner Noreen Morris
“While this decision was exceedingly difficult and will be incredibly heartbreaking for our NEC student-athletes, coaches and administrators, the NEC Council of Presidents focused on the importance of the health and safety and well-being of our entire campus communities. This pandemic has challenged us all in ways we could never have imagined, and I applaud our student-athletes and coaches for handling this difficult time with grace and courage. We are committed to providing all of our student-athletes with meaningful practice and training activities this fall and look forward to reconvening our Presidents by October 1 to discuss future competitive opportunities.”
Statement from CCSU Interim Director of Athletics Tom Pincince:
“Central Connecticut State University and our Athletics Department fully support the decision made by the Northeast Conference Council of Presidents. While this is a difficult day for those in our programs and those who support them, the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff members and our Blue Devil family continue to be our number one priority.
Many of the protocols we explored for a safe season of competition will now be utilized to finalize our plan to practice and train, according to NCAA and NEC guidelines. Our medical advisors have guided our plans from the outset, and their recommendations and leadership will continue to play an important role in these next steps.
We’re committed to preserving as much of the student-athlete experience that we can, and acknowledging what it means to be a Blue Devil. Our Blue Devils are leaders. As our campus continues its preparations to safely open for the fall semester, we know our student-athletes will lead by example. As a department and a University, we will support each Blue Devil along the way, both physically and mentally. As a family we continue to work together to adjust and adapt to an environment that is new to all of us.
Blue Devils, we will do this together, as we always do. We will remain determined, diligent and focused on our goal. We will get through this, we will continue to thrive and we will continue to make decisions that keep our Blue Devil family safe.
Go Blue Devils!”
Northeast Conference Postpones Fall Sports Competition & Championships FAQ
The Northeast Conference Council of Presidents voted to postpone all fall sports athletics competition and championships. This postponement applies to NEC sponsored sports and impacts men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball, as well as all other NEC sports scheduled to engage in competition this fall. The Council agreed to reconvene again by October 1 to evaluate the public health crisis and competitive options moving forward. During the fall semester, all sports teams will be permitted to participate in practices, strength and conditioning training, individual and team meetings, film review and athletic training activities as permitted by local, state and government health and safety regulations as well as campus COVID-19 guidelines.
Why was this decision made?
The NEC Presidents relied on national and regional indicators as well as medical and safety recommendations from the NCAA, local governments and the NEC Medical Advisory Committee to make its decision. Not only does the COVID-19 pandemic continue to trend in the wrong direction in many parts of the country, but access to affordable and accurate testing with reasonable response times are not available. In addition, the basic protocols that require facemasks, social distancing, frequent hand washing, limited travel and avoidance of large groups are not feasible in a competitive collegiate sports environment at this time. Given all of these factors, the NEC Presidents and athletic administrators believe it is important and ethical to be realistic and honest with their campus community, student-athletes and staff, and minimize the health and legal risk in prematurely attempting to compete this fall. Announcing this decision now provides clarity and transparency to all student-athletes as they continue planning their return to campus and provides the Council of Presidents the opportunity to reassess competitive options by October 1.
How will the conference and its members support student-athletes impacted by this decision?
We recognize the impact this decision will have on our student-athletes, particularly on their mental health. We will work with our members to ensure we are providing adequate support to our student-athletes in this regard. As we often do, we will also utilize our conference Student-Athlete Advisory Committee as a sounding board and solicit direct feedback from them on resources that could help.
Which NEC sports are impacted by this decision?
All sports scheduled to engage in competition this fall will be impacted by this decision.
Will fall, winter and spring student-athletes still be allowed to participate in team activities?
Yes, student-athletes from all sports teams will be permitted to participate in athletics activities including practices, meetings, strength and conditioning workouts and athletic training treatments for student-athletes this fall in accordance with NCAA rules and local, campus and state health and safety guidelines. However, the NEC Presidents reserve the right to develop institutional or conference-wide limitations around the time allotted for countable athletically related activities (CARA) during the fall semester to ensure the health and safety of all involved, including student-athletes, coaches, administrators, athletic trainers, and support personnel.
Did the NEC consider moving to a conference-only schedule for the fall semester?
Yes, moving to a conference-only schedule was one of the options explored by the NEC Presidents, but we ultimately decided that postponing all fall sports competition was in the best interest of our student-athletes, coaches and campus communities.
Did NCAA Championships factor into the decision-making process?
We fully understand and appreciate the significance of competing for NEC Championships and representing the NEC in the NCAA championship. However, the focus on health and safety was paramount in our decision making, and as such, we will forego the opportunity to compete in the NCAA fall sports tournaments should they be conducted this fall. As it presently stands, NCAA fall championships remain as scheduled. With that said, we intend to work collaboratively with any other conferences that do not conduct fall sports seasons to encourage the NCAA to consider other championship options. It is premature at this point to speculate, but if NCAA championships are shifted, it will certainly be a consideration as we develop alternative competitive formats for our membership.
How will this affect any NCAA eligibility matters for fall sports student-athletes?
Since no competition will occur in the fall, student-athletes are not using a season of eligibility this fall. However, if competition occurs in the spring, student-athletes would use a season of eligibility. As a reminder, student-athletes have five years to complete four seasons of participation in an NCAA-sponsored sport under existing NCAA legislation.
How will this affect the associate members in field hockey and football?
The two associate field hockey members and one football associate member will have the discretion to follow guidance from their primary sport conference.
How do the decisions made by the NEC Presidents impact sports that are not sponsored by the NEC?
For non-NEC sponsored sports, institutions will have the discretion to abide by the NEC’s decision or defer to the decisions made by their respective conference(s) in those sports.