Due to a small cluster of recent COVID-19 cases that led to quarantining athletes on five varsity teams, Northeastern has canceled games and practices for all winter sports through Dec. 18.
Jeff Konya, athletic director at Northeastern, said he is hopeful that the winter teams will resume practices in early December and launch abbreviated seasons after Dec. 18.
“When you’re making a decision of this magnitude, the number one priority is the wellness and safety of the student athletes,” Konya said. “Analyzing the facts as we know them right now, this decision gives us our best chance of conducting intercollegiate athletics in an appropriate way in mid-December.”
The postponements involve women’s and men’s teams in ice hockey, basketball, and indoor track and field, as well as in women’s swimming. Fall and spring sports should be largely unaffected, as those programs recently concluded their winter practices.
Konya said he does not expect the cancellations to affect the NCAA tournament hopes of the affected teams.
“It should not impact us because our pathway to those postseason tournaments is going to be dependent on how we do in conference play,” Konya said.
Konya said that “small outbreaks” of COVID-19 cases had been discovered on Northeastern teams in women’s basketball and hockey, and men’s and women’s indoor track and field.
Additionally, Northeastern’s contact-tracing program resulted in the quarantining of a small number of student-athletes of the men’s basketball and women’s swimming and rowing teams.
Konya noted that most of the teams at Northeastern have not had positive tests for COVID-19.
Overall since Aug. 17, Northeastern has conducted 431,276 COVID-19 tests of students, faculty, and staff. Only 334 of those tested have been positive for the coronavirus, including 279 students. The university’s contact tracing has determined that nearly all of the cases are due to off-campus activity.
The decision to postpone the winter seasons was made Monday night by university leadership. Konya informed all head coaches of the decision that night.
The men’s basketball team had been scheduled to travel on Wednesday to Washington D.C. to play three games in the DC Paradise Jam tournament beginning on Thanksgiving Day. Those games have been canceled, as have the opening games of the men’s hockey team on Friday and Saturday against the University of Massachusetts Lowell. No member of the men’s basketball or hockey programs had tested positive for COVID-19, Konya said.
The Ivy League announced Nov. 12 the cancellation of its winter sports program, leading days later to the cancellation of the 2021 Beanpot men’s hockey tournament, which Northeastern had won for the past three seasons. Numerous teams across the U.S. have experienced cancellations or postponements throughout the NCAA’s fall competitions.
In July, Northeastern decided to suspend its fall sports programs, with hope that those competitions may be rescheduled in spring 2021—a plan that has not been ruled out, Konya said. The men’s rowing team, which traditionally competes in the fall, recently was quarantined after a student-athlete tested positive for COVID-19, Konya said.