The Northeast-10 Conference, set for its 40th anniversary season and consisting of 14 academic institutions, including Franklin Pierce University, has decided to suspend — but not cancel — conference-sponsored competition through Dec. 31.
“In the conversations I’ve had with student-athletes and parents, everybody knew this was a trend,” Franklin Pierce Athletic Director Rachel Burleson said. “There was a good chance this was going to happen, so I don’t think anyone is shocked by the news. But it does not take away the sadness and the amount of anxiety that goes along with it. It’s one thing to know it’s a possibility, it’s another thing to know it’s true.”
In a statement, the Council of Presidents of the Northeast-10 Conference said, "... We have made the difficult decision that intercollegiate athletics competition has been suspended through the end of the 2020 fall semester. We are committed to exploring alternate playing seasons for our fall sports during the 2020-21 academic year if it is deemed safe. We do not take this decision lightly and understand its impact. Our campus communities will do everything we can to support the well-being of our student-athletes this fall as we navigate these uncertain times together.”
The decision by the council was made unanimously Thursday afternoon.
With the suspension now in place, there is still hope for practices to take place before Dec. 31, something that could be more plausible in a town such as Rindge that does not currently have as many direct concerns with COVID-19 as other areas.
Decisions on whether to practice are up to the academic institutions themselves. So, for example, Franklin Pierce could engage in practice while conference foes do not if the institution adheres to the polices put forward by the NCAA and state public health regulations.
“Athletes want to compete. So, we are going to explore different options and opportunities for them to engage with each other,” Burleson said. “It may be competing in a talent show or a water balloon contest, just something that allows them in competition. Our goal now is how are we going to have the best experiences this fall.”
Additionally, the general student population, a large part of collegiate athletics, will be a group that is considered greatly when deciding what to do during the fall semester.
“We pull our general student population to a lot of our games, so we’re also thinking of ways to keep them engaged in the Franklin Pierce brand,” Burleson said.
The university is planning for students to return to campus for the fall semester.
With other conferences releasing their plans for the fall sports season, the Northeast-10 suspension adds to a growing list of conferences.
It all started back in March, as the dominoes began to fall and sports as the world knew it began to collapse. At the collegiate and professional level, the Ivy League set the tone when it cancelled its conference tournament schedule for the spring season.
With the NCAA men’s basketball tournament looming an programs such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton all having had success in year's past as early round upset picks, the decision sent sports aficionados into a frenzy.
But it turned out the Ivy League was just a preview of what was not far away: all sports suspending play, at the collegiate and professional levels throughout most of the globe.
Now, months later, the Ivy League has once again set the early tone, this time for the fall season. It became the first Division I conference to drop out of the upcoming college football season.
With athletic conferences being dismantled steadily for the fall season, one must wonder when or if sports will return to the place where they were once known.