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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell College cancels athletic competition for Fall Term 1

The Charles Benson Bear ’39 Recreation and Athletic Center will host no competition this fall. Photo by Xiaoxuan Yang.

Today, June 29, Grinnell College announced that there will be no athletic competition against other colleges for the first fall term. The announcement notes that while competition will not proceed, “there will be athletics at Grinnell this year.”

Anne Harris, Interim president of the College as of July 1st and the current vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College, held a WebEx call with all members of the Grinnell athletics department at 2 p.m to directly speak with players and coaches before sending a campus-wide email to announce the decision.

“Given the College’s location in a small, rural area, our value of social responsibility, our need to maintain a small campus population this fall, and the inherent risk of transmission associated with competition and travel, we feel this is the safest choice in an enduringly challenging situation,” wrote Harris and President Raynard Kington in the Special Campus Memo.

Jasper Yang ’21, the rising senior captain on the Grinnell soccer team and a top-ten career goal scorer for the Pioneers, knew the news was coming but is still deeply disappointed with the cancellation.

“Right now, I am strongly considering taking a leave of absence for the fall and returning to complete my senior season next year,” said Yang. “I appreciate that they delivered this news to the athletes directly and early enough for us to process it before the semester starts.”

Grinnell’s decision is the first public announcement of a fall athletic plan in the Midwest Conference (MWC).

Other MWC schools like Lake Forest, Beloit, Knox and Ripon have said they will reveal their Fall plans July 1. Some, such as St. Norbert, have said they are working on plans for an “eventual reopening” of athletic competition.

Across the country, schools that Grinnell considers its “peers” have different approaches on how varsity competition will roll-out this fall. For example, Kenyon College, a competitor frequently ranked nationally across the sports spectrum, released a plan to begin preseason practices August 10, in accordance with the NCAA guidelines for Division III athletics. On the other hand, Grinnell has fallen in line with institutions like Bowdoin, who canceled fall sports with an opportunity for athletes to compete in some form in 2021.

Like the variation of institutional response across the country, the immediate reaction from the Grinnell athletic community will differ depending on the athlete, but they’re all students whose lives have changed drastically with the advent of COVID-19.

Rick Johnson ’20.5 took a semester off in order to play one final football season of Pioneer football following 2019’s cancelled season. Now, he has been forced to realize that Rosenbloom Field may not be the one he plays his last year on. Johnson said he plans to take classes online to finish up his last semester and explore graduate school options with a chance to play one more football season or play abroad in Europe.

“I feel for every athlete who has lost their season and everyone else who has been affected by the virus,” said Johnson.

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