Amherst College will suspend its spring sports season because of coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns, the school announced Tuesday.
Winter sports will finish their seasons. The women’s basketball team and the women’s hockey team are currently playing in their respective NCAA Tournaments. Indoor track nationals are this weekend. The Mammoths’ spring sports – lacrosse, softball, tennis and track & field – will compete through Wednesday then be canceled “until the situation with COVID-19 becomes clearer,” according to a release.
“The College will continue to monitor the outbreak and make decisions about whether or not it makes sense to restart classes on campus throughout the next couple of months,” according to the statement. “All of these choices will be based on what is in the best interests of our students and our broader community. Their health and well-being are paramount.”
Amherst’s baseball and men’s lacrosse teams competed Tuesday, and there are three games scheduled for Wednesday in Amherst: baseball, women’s lacrosse and a women’s ice hockey NCAA tournament game. Fans won’t be allowed in Orr Rink for the 7 p.m. hockey game between Norwich and Amherst.
The college will host a pod of three NCAA Tournament women’s basketball games – two on Friday and one Saturday – at LeFrak Gymnasium. No fans will be admitted.
The Mammoths will face George Fox University at 7 p.m. Friday, while Mary Hardin-Baylor and Christopher Newport play in the early game at 4 p.m. The winners will meet Saturday with a spot in the Final Four on the line.
“Every school has their right to decide. The three schools stand together to share with NCAA and Amherst that this isn’t fair,” Mary Hardin-Baylor coach Mark Morefield said. “How do we tell parents that they can’t watch their daughters? It might be last time they see their daughter play. We’re going to stand together that this isn’t right. If you’re not capable of hosting, move the venue to somewhere closer to campus. Somewhere in Springfield. There are several other possibilities within that area to go ahead and move it to.”
Amherst and the NCAA said moving to another site wasn’t discussed.
“The priority of NCAA championships is the health and well-being of student-athletes, team personnel, host communities and all who attend NCAA championship events. We rely on the host schools to determine their own safety and security protocol for events on their campus,” the NCAA said in a statement.
“The selection of hosts and assignment of teams to sites by the committee is based on the established championship policies and procedures. At this time, there has not been a decision to deviate from or change the policies and procedures, including host assignments, due to host sites prohibiting spectators.”
Amherst had medical personnel at the gym last weekend for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. The workers were available to take the temperature of any members of team traveling parties who didn’t feel well. Medical staff also will be on hand this weekend.
“To say this was a very, very difficult decision is an understatement. The Amherst Athletics program is one of the best Division III programs in the nation, and a vast part of the identity of the College,” the statement said. “We know there will be many members of our community who will be heartbroken, chief among them our own student athletes and their families. We sincerely regret any disappointment this causes them.”