Time to wake up, Hawks fans. Spring sports are back.
On Feb. 23, SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras announced that sports for the Spring 2021 semester were cleared to start on March 20. This includes baseball, softball, lacrosse and tennis. Track and field will also resume, but instead of having a full schedule, there will only be a two-day championship event. The season will end on May 8.
“The pandemic has kept our student athletes off the playing field for too long, but thanks to the great work and effort of SUNYAC Commissioner DiCamillo, our campus presidents, the SUNYAC leadership, athletic directors, coaches, and our athletes, we’ve developed a workable plan to resume athletic competition at SUNY,” Malatras said in a press release.
There are plenty of COVID-19 restrictions in place to ensure safety for athletes and coaches, the most notable being the split of the conference into East and West divisions. This means that teams in each division will only play each other with no inter-conference regular season games. The winner of each division will face each other in the championship at the end of the playoffs. This restructuring was done to reduce travel and overnight stays, according to SUNYAC’s press release.
The makeup of each division is determined by the sport. New Paltz is a member of the East Division for all spring sports but other schools, like Oneonta, will switch divisions based on the sport due to the number of schools participating for each. Interstate 81 is used as the rough “dividing line” between divisions.
Other restrictions include mandatory mask wearing for all non-athletes present at games, no spectators, weekly COVID testing, no handshakes and no post or pre-game celebrations, to name a few. Every single facet of the season was detailed in a 91-page report, including bus seating diagrams for away games and even exact specifications on where officials should stand for each sport.
The entire spring plan dates back to Jan. 20, when Malatras sent a letter to the Chair of SUNYAC Presidents and SUNY Cortland’s President, Erik Bitterbaum, asking him to assist in the creation of the spring season.
“SUNY has demonstrated with enhanced testing, monitoring, compliance, and uniform protocols we have been able to successfully manage the situation,” Malatras wrote. “Likewise, several other SUNY campuses have successfully brought modified athletics back with enhanced protocols, including small group and pod practices, individual skills development, aggressive testing requirements, virtual team building, video review, and activities that support mental health.”
Each sport had their own planning committee, with college presidents, health experts and coaches in the mix. Even some familiar New Paltz faces were amongst them. Baseball Head Coach Thomas Seay was the vice-chair of his sport’s committee, Athletic Director Matt Giufre served as the financial representative for softball and tennis Head Coach Rob Bruley was the coach’s chair of his sport’s committee.
After a month of deliberation and careful planning, the plan was approved on Feb. 22.
The New Paltz women’s lacrosse team will be the first Hawks to take the field, playing an away game against the Oneonta Red Dragons on March 24, followed by the men’s lacrosse team two days later against the Plattsburgh Cardinals at home. This will be the first full season of the men’s lacrosse team, who had their inaugural season cut short after only four games last year.
SUNY has protocols in place if a COVID-19 spike occurs among the athletes, but with the litany of guidelines to prevent such an outbreak, we can finally see some Hawks soar once again.