Westfield State, MASCAC fall sports season suspended

WESTFIELD – Westfield State University athletics announced that the Owls will not have intercollegiate competition for fall sports teams in the Fall 2020 season, in conjunction with the announcement from the league’s Council of Presidents on Thursday that the entire Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) will not compete in fall sports programs.
The Owls’ fall sports teams (football, men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey, volleyball, men’s and women’s cross country and men’s and women’s golf) will have the ability to practice on campus while utilizing the NCAA Resocialization of Sport Guidelines.
“I am extremely disappointed to have to announce to our student-athletes and families that our fall season teams will not have the opportunity to play intercollegiate games this fall,” said athletics director Richard Lenfest, Jr. “The COVID-19 pandemic has had an extreme impact on public health, and ultimately we need to take the steps that best protect the health of our student athletes and their loved ones in limiting the opportunity to spread or contract the virus.”
“I am happy that we still be able to provide team activities through practices, conditioning and skill training,” added Lenfest. “Athletics provides numerous benefits to our athletes, including strengthening their social networks, health, fitness, and general mental well-being through the benefit of exercise. Student-athletes will be able to train with their coaches, and while group sizes and activities may be modified to meet health guidelines, there is still the opportunity to reap the benefits provided by college athletics.”
A decision on the winter sport seasons was deferred until September by the Council of Presidents.
The NCAA has issued several blanket waivers regarding eligibility. Student-athletes who’s teams compete in less than 50 percent of that sports maximum allowable games for the fall 2020 season will not use a year of eligibility, so that Owl fall sport athletes who take part in team practices and activities will not lose a year of eligibility.
“The NCAA has acted swiftly to ensure that student-athletes do not unduly lose eligibility due to the pandemic’s impact on competition,” said Lenfest. “Our staff will be available to our athletes to answer any questions they have about eligibility.”
The MASCAC is also investigating the ability to allow fall-season sports to compete in the spring, should public health conditions allow for it, pending NCAA rules.
“Ultimately, we are committed to providing the best experience and the safest experience for our student athletes,” said Lenfest. “This fall, the safest option is to not compete in intercollegiate games, but we can provide the best possible experience given the current health situation by having team practices and training. We are fully committed to getting back to intercollegiate competition as quickly as possible, as allowed under the Conference and NCAA Guidelines, as well as local, State and Federal health guidelines permit.”
Owl student athletes will not return to campus early for preseason in 2020, they will instead follow the Safe Fall Opening procedures established by the University, and team activities will start in early September. Coaches will be reaching out to their individual teams and players to further outline team plans and training schedules.
Westfield State athletics has consistently been the top program in the MASCAC. The Owls won the 2019-20 Howard C. Smith Cup, signifying the best overall athletics program in the league based on regular season records, and the Owls have claimed the Cup five times in the last six years and nine times since 2007. – Courtesy of Westfield State University Sports

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