Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio is among the latest wave of schools and conferences to announce the cancellation of fall athletics.
They are joined by Division III Centennial Conference and Division II PSAC Conference, which made similar announcements this week.
“With the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, especially among young people, we cannot continue to plan for a return to competitive athletics this fall,” Kenyon said in announcing the decision. Intercollegiate athletics competition will be canceled for the remainder of the 2020 calendar year. This is the right decision for the well-being of our entire Kenyon community. We appreciate your patience throughout this process, and we understand that for our student-athletes in particular, this news may be especially hard to take.”
Simultaneously, Kenyon announced that they would offer a mix of in-person and remote instruction, with students being welcomed back to campus on a rotating basis. First-years, sophomores, and new transfer students will be on campus for the fall semester, along with all international students. The school says it hopes to have all students back on campus in the spring, though it’s waiting to make a final decision about that.
Kenyon is breaking from the broader NCAC conference, which includes another swimming powerhouse Denison. The NCAC has said that September 18th is the first permissible contest date and that schools will play conference-only schedules and try to eliminate overnight travel.
Kenyon administrators said that they “do not know yet what lies ahead for our winter and spring sports seasons at Kenyon,” but that all intercollegiate athletics competition is canceled for the remainder of the 2020 calendar year.
While no decisions have been made on the future of winter sports seasons like swimming, this means that fall sports seasons for cross country, field hockey, football, golf, soccer, tennis, and volleyball will not be held.
The school has committed that, following NCAA guidelines, teams will be able to continue to practice and work out on campus through the fall. They did, however, say that they would not make an exception to the above rules regarding which students would be on campus for which semesters for athletes. In short, junior and senior swimmers at Kenyon won’t likely be able to train with the team until after the fall semester, at the earliest, unless they are international students.
That means swimmers like NCAA D3 Champions and Record breakers David Fitch and Crile Hart won’t be on campus training with the team this fall, among others. Both are rising seniors.
There is increasing national momentum, with several conferences having canceled fall athletics, toward moving all Division III swimming programs to a spring-only season.
MIT and the NESCAC conference, both significant players in Division III swimming, have also canceled their fall sports seasons. Franklin & Marshall head coach Ben Delia penned an editorial this week on SwimSwam advocating for the shift to a fully-spring season after his conference, the Centennial Conference, also canceled fall semester sports.
The Kenyon men’s swimming & diving team won a record-setting 31 consecutive NCAA DIvision III swimming and diving championships from 1980 through 2010, adding 3 more from 2013 to 2015 for 34 total titles.
The Kenyon women have won 23 total titles, which is nearly-double Emory’s 12 for the 2nd-most in D3 history. The Kenyon women’s latest title came in 2009, with Emory running off 10 consecutive titles since.
Kenyon College is located in Knox County in Ohio. With a population of about 61,000 northwest of the capital of Columbus, Knox County has seen relatively-few cases of coronavirus. So far, the area has had only 59 positive tests and 1 death caused by COVID-19. While the state as a whole has seen an increase in cases over the last month, Knox County continues to see very few new cases.