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Local colleges’ fall sports to remain postponed amid COVID-19

Northeast Conference re-affirms shutdown

October 7, 2020 John Torenli
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What was a foregone conclusion for many was officially “re-affirmed” by the Northeast Conference last Friday.

There will be no local college fall athletics here in Brooklyn.

The NEC, which originally announced that it would postpone the fall sports schedule indefinitely back on July 29, doubled down on that decision after re-evaluating conditions and the viability of conducting varsity events during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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“Prioritizing the continued health and safety of student-athletes and staff, along with campus and local communities, the Northeast Conference (NEC) Council of Presidents today reaffirmed its July 29 decision to postpone fall sports athletics competition and championships as well as all other sports competition to no earlier than November 25,” read an NEC-issued release.

“This decision followed an agreed upon reevaluation of the current COVID-19 landscape and the status of campus re-openings, along with updated federal, state, local and campus regulations.”

The St. Francis College and Long Island University men’s soccer, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball teams will likely have to move their respective seasons to the spring.

And with coronavirus cases once again surging in and around Downtown Brooklyn, the NEC will likely have to make a decision soon regarding winter sports, such as the Terriers’ and Blackbirds’ Division I basketball teams.

“Given the NCAA’s recent decision to move fall championships to the spring, the NEC will continue its comprehensive exploration and evaluation of the viability of providing a competitive experience for fall sports during the spring semester,” the release went on.

“In their consideration of potential options, the (NEC) Presidents will determine the best approach moving forward relative to competitive opportunities, taking into account their commitment to the student-athlete experience and the need to provide a healthy and safe competitive environment. With that said, the conference and its member institutions have made the commitment to develop and implement league and campus policies and procedures that will be required before allowing the resumption of conference sports this winter and spring.”

The recent emergence of COVID clusters have forced various Brooklyn neighborhoods to shut down non-essential businesses, and in some cases schools, throughout the borough.

The rising numbers of positive tests will doubtlessly have an impact on the upcoming November elections, leaving many, including NEC Commissioner Noreen Morris, to re-assess the possibility that the league’s sports schedules will not go off as previously scheduled.

“As we contend with the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 public health crisis, health and safety remain our highest priorities, and today’s decision by the NEC Council of Presidents aligns with those priorities,” said Morris.

“This course of action now allows us to shift our attention to the future, and work with campus leaders to examine the feasibility of potential competitive options for fall, winter and spring sports that support the well-being of student-athletes, staff and campus communities.”

The SFC basketball team, which was bounced from the NEC Tournament in the opening round last year, and the LIU Sharks, who reached the NEC semifinals in March, have not yet released schedules for the 2020-21 campaign.

But the possibility remains that there will be college basketball in Brooklyn this season, even if it means waiting until 2021.

“I continue to be inspired by the resilience and determination of our student-athletes and look forward to the day they are able to once again play the game they love and experience the thrill of NEC competition,” Morris noted.

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Northwell Health, the long-time sponsor of the New York Islanders’ practice facility in East Meadow, New York, has entered into a 10-year founding sponsorship agreement with the team’s new UBS Arena in Elmont, New York. Photo: Kathy Willens/AP

While the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the collegiate and professional sporting world, the National Hockey League on Tuesday announced that it is targeting New Year’s Day for the start of next season.

The Brooklyn/Long Island-based New York Islanders, who reached their first Eastern Conference finals since 1993 last month before being ousted by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, are expected to play all of their regular-season games next year at the Nassau Coliseum.

But with that arena currently shuttered, there had been rumors that the team could return to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for one more season before the scheduled opening of the team’s state-of-the-art UBS Arena in Elmont, New York, in time for the start of the 2021-22 season.

Last week, however, New York team president and general manager Lou Lamoriello indicated that the Isles would not be returning to our borough after playing all or at least a portion of its home games at Barclays since the start of the 2015-16 campaign.

“We will definitely be playing at the [renovated Nassau] Coliseum next year,” Lamoriello said. “That is a confirmation.”

While UBS Arena remains under construction adjacent to the legendary Belmont Race Track, the Isles have entered into a 10-year founding sponsorship deal with Northwell Health, the largest health care provider in the state of New York.

“We are proud to align ourselves with New York’s newest premier sports and entertainment venue,” Northwell Health President and CEO Michael Dowling said in a statement.

“New York, and especially Long Island, is home to thousands of our patients as well as our employees. With 25,000 employees living near UBS Arena alone, this partnership allows us to reinforce our commitment to serving the community and we look forward to developing future health and wellness programming with UBS Arena and the New York Islanders.”

UBS (The United Bank of Switzerland) bought the naming rights for the new arena in July.

Northwell Health has been the long-time sponsor of the team’s practice facility in East Meadow, New York.

“Northwell has been an invaluable supporter of the New York Islanders for nearly 20 years and we couldn’t be more excited for them to strengthen their partnership with the team through the new UBS Arena project,” said Isles co-owner Jon Ledecky.


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