College Hoops: North Atlantic Conference, Home Of NVU-Lyndon, Cancels League Play

NVU-Lyndon's Phillip Lafond skies to the hoop for a basket against Colby Sawyer on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. (Photo by Paul Hayes)

The North Atlantic Conference, home to Northern Vermont University-Lyndon, will not have basketball this winter.

The NAC Presidents’ Council said Monday they were canceling league play and championships, a move they also made for the fall sports season.

“It’s disappointing news for sure,” said Hornet men’s hoops coach David Pasiak. “Not totally unexpected, given what’s going on with the COVID numbers across the country.

Back in November, the school presidents offered support for tentative plans to conduct winter sports (men’s and women’s basketball and swimming and diving) during the spring semester, but opted to wait until January to make a final decision. But they determined it wasn’t “feasible to conduct a NAC regular or postseason basketball schedule with members spread across three states.”

Last fall, the NAC developed tentative plans to begin conference basketball games Jan. 29, 2021. That date was then pushed back after several schools adjusted dates for the start of the second semester. A variety of creative schedule options were crafted in the hopes that NAC basketball could safely be conducted. Ultimately, presidents determined the best course of action was to forgo a traditional conference schedule this year while allowing schools autonomy to play games at their own discretion.

“We appreciate the hard work done by athletics administrators, athletic trainers, and conference office staff to develop schedule options and safety protocols with respect to contesting a conference basketball season,” said Presidents’ Council Chair Ray Rice, also the president at UMaine-Presque Isle. “The Council ultimately determined the safest course of action is to allow each school to provide competitive opportunities for student-athletes in a way that works best for each campus.”

The Lyndon men’s program is working on putting together approximately a 10-game regional schedule involving schools from Vermont and neighboring states, Pasiak said. In-state options are limited at this point, with Middlebury and Vermont Tech not playing and Castleton committed to a Little East schedule.

The first official NAC Swimming and Diving Championship, meanwhile, is postponed until next winter. The first-ever NAC swimming and diving event, a virtual invitational, is slated for March 13-14, 2021.

Presidents previously endorsed plans for playing traditional fall sports on a smaller scale throughout the spring semester, with the understanding that adjustments may be needed. Fall sports in the NAC that are sponsored by NVU-Lyndon include men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s cross country and women’s tennis. Though women’s tennis is typically conducted in the fall at the conference level, it is a spring NCAA championship sport. As a result, a NAC championship is planned for this spring in that sport.

Previously approved spring sports schedules and championships remain in place while contingency planning is underway. NVU-Lyndon spring sports include baseball, softball, men’s and women’s lacrosse, and men’s tennis. Presidents will reconvene in mid-to-late February to determine if changing course is needed for fall or spring sports.

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