While participating in practices during the first semester, Hood College men’s and women’s basketball players hoped they’d get to play some games this season.
But being realistic, they knew they might not get such a chance because of the coronavirus pandemic. And on Tuesday, those fears were confirmed.
In response to the Middle Atlantic Conference’s decision to move forward with the 2020-21 winter athletics season, Hood decided to opt out of the MAC men’s and women’s basketball season because COVID-19 infections have been spiking in Frederick County and elsewhere in recent weeks.
Hood’s decision was based on the recommendations of the public health experts from the Frederick County Health Department and Frederick Health, as well as the college’s COVID Emergency Response Team (CERT) and Board of Trustees. At this time, the plan is for track and field to begin practicing for their outdoor spring season and swimming to compete within the MAC beginning in mid-March, according to a release issued by the school on Tuesday.
“As with our previous decision to forgo competition in this fall, this is a very difficult decision, as I know how important competitions are to our athletes and our whole community. Yet, it is the only responsible one for not only the Hood community, but also the Frederick community,” Hood President Andrea E. Chapdelaine said in a release issued by the school. “Local hospitals are facing limited capacity. The county’s positivity rate currently is higher than the state average and areas where our students would be competing are four times Frederick County’s rate.”
Hood isn’t the only MAC school to take such a step. For instance, MAC member York College (Pennsylvania) announced Tuesday it was opting out of men’s and women’s basketball, among other sports.
“It was kind of a situation that we saw becoming more and more clear with each passing week,” Hood men’s basketball coach Chad Dickman said. “Fall sports were canceled, and now the positive rates are, I think, five, six times higher.
“So there’s really no way around the current situation,” he said. “Obviously we’re disappointed, but it’s a smart thing to do, and we really can’t argue it.”
Like all other Hood students, the school’s basketball players haven’t been on campus since heading home when the first semester ended before Thanksgiving. If Hood had played games this winter, players would’ve returned to campus to practice this week. Now, they won’t come back until the second semester starts on Feb. 1.
Hood women’s basketball coach Jack Mehl said his players took it well when he informed them about the school’s decision to opt out of the MAC’s season.
“I talked to a few of them afterwards and they were like, well, we knew it could be possibility,” he said. “We were hoping it wasn’t going to happen.”
Director of Athletics Susan Kolb, Ph.D. said that student-athletes and coaches will continue in-person practice and intrasquad scrimmages, following COVID protocols put in place in the fall.
“I know our student-athletes and coaches want to compete,” Kolb said in the release. “While I understand the experience will be different than competing, we will continue to provide an engaging athletic experience and use this opportunity to get better technically, tactically and physically.”
This decision only affects men’s and women’s basketball. College officials will look at metrics in February for a possibility of intercollegiate competition for the Blazers’ NCAA and club sports. Varsity esports will continue to compete remotely.
Mehl was glad his players could still practice. In the fall, practices were held in three phases — two weeks of no sharing equipment, two weeks of sharing equipment but no contact and two weeks of being able to have contact.
“Practices were good,” Mehl said. “Everybody’s wearing a mask, so that’s been strange. But for the most part, I really have to commend the athletes because we were asking them to do some things they weren’t used to, and they jumped in and were fully participating and happy to be involved.”