All spring sports have been canceled, while winter sports teams still competing in NCAA postseason competitions will continue as scheduled, according to an email sent to the Tufts community on Tuesday evening by University President Anthony Monaco.
The announcement came as the university joined a growing group of institutions that have suspended in-person classes and closed residence halls for the remainder of the semester in response to the global spread of the novel coronavirus, formally known as COVID-19.
“We realize this will be upsetting to our athletes and their supporters,” Monaco wrote in his email. “We recognize the dedication and hard work of our student athletes, and we look forward to resumption of NESCAC competition in the future.”
The decision to halt all NESCAC spring sports seasons — including conference championships — came after a meeting of the NESCAC presidents, according to Monaco’s email and a NESCAC statement posted online on Wednesday. The Tufts women’s tennis, men’s tennis, women’s lacrosse and men’s lacrosse teams had already started their regular seasons.
Despite the developing situation on campus, winter sports will be allowed to compete in NCAA postseason competitions, which are expected to continue as planned. In the next two weeks, six teams are scheduled to compete in NCAA postseason events: women’s basketball, men’s basketball, women’s indoor track and field, men’s indoor track and field, women’s swim and dive and men’s swim and dive.
The NCAA announced in a statement on Wednesday afternoon that all championship events will be closed to spectators except for essential staff and limited family members. NCAA events hosted at Tufts, such as the women’s basketball NCAA Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games this weekend, had already barred spectators, according to Monaco’s email and a Tufts Athletics press release earlier on Wednesday. No decision has been made yet on Tufts teams’ eligibility for spring NCAA postseason play.
The Athletics department informed the Daily via email that student athletes who continue to compete in postseason play will be allowed to stay on campus and use Tufts dining services while they remain open. If dining halls close, student athletes will be provided with meal money or meals by the department. They will receive sports medicine services as needed for the remainder of the season.
In addition, a follow-up email sent to the Tufts community yesterday announced that the Tisch Sports Center and Gantcher Family Sports Center will be closed to the general public beginning on Monday, March 16. According to Director of Athletic Communications Paul Sweeney, these facilities will be open to athletes on the basketball and swim and dive teams should they continue on in their postseasons.
NESCAC officials declined to comment beyond the statement posted online upon request from the Daily and referred all questions to the Tufts Athletics Department. Tufts Director of Athletics John Morris also could not be reached for comment due to the urgent nature of the situation, but referred all questions to Sweeney.
Coaches and student athletes are still processing these decisions and the effects they will have, both for athletics and in their lives.
“We are very heartbroken,” senior co-captain Grace Fabryky of the women’s crew team said. “But I think we recognize that this is a much bigger issue that is happening and impacting our little corner of the world.
Head coach of women’s track and field and cross country Kristen Morwick will still travel to North Carolina this weekend with the athletes who qualified for NCAA Indoor National Championships, but she expressed sadness due to the cancellation of the spring outdoor season.
“I can say we are totally bummed for our team,” Morwick wrote in an email to the Daily. “So, so sad right now.”
Rhemi Toth, a senior and co-captain of the track and field team, expressed mixed emotions regarding the continuation of the winter postseason and the cancellation of the spring season.
“I feel very lucky that we have one last opportunity to compete for Tufts,” Toth said. “Track has been a big part of my life, and it’s sad that I won’t have one last chance [in the outdoor season].”
John Casey, head coach of the baseball team and associate director of athletics, explained that although he understands the decision, it is still devastating for his team.
“I’m literally sick to my stomach for the seniors,” Casey said.
Casey also said it has been difficult seeing his team’s season canceled while the winter sports are still scheduled to continue.
“I’m having trouble figuring out how some teams are continuing to play while they shut down others,” Casey said.
Casey also said that he and all other coaches were notified via email of the cancellation of their seasons, and that he contacted his team via email before meeting with them later on Wednesday. With such a major decision, Casey questioned this process of delivering information.
“When it’s a really emotional thing for student athletes, [and] when they’ve invested all this time, I’m not sure that’s conveyed very well by an email,” Casey said. “The hard part for some of these kids is it feels like ‘someone took something from me, and I don’t know why.’”
Other coaches and student athletes of both winter and spring teams chose not to respond for comment.
Like the rest of the Athletics department, coaches and athletes ultimately are trying to maintain a positive attitude.
“We just have to stay focused and try to make the most of the week,” senior Roger Gu of the men’s swim and dive team said about the upcoming NCAA National Championships.
“As soon as we heard the news, we came together last night, and already people are so sad, but we are channeling our sadness to supporting each other and being together,” Fabryky said about her team. “I am so impressed that even in the face of existential crisis, my teammates are there.”
Casey had a similar attitude about how he will lead his team.
“One thing we’ve always prided ourselves on is we have total control on how we handle adversity,” Casey said. “I have to remind myself of that every two minutes right now, but we’re going to try to handle this the best way we can.”