Division III Williams College Cancels Fall 2020 Sports Competitions

Williams College became the second school in the NESCAC to announce its teams would not be competing in fall sports in the upcoming school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making its plans public on Monday.

Bowdoin College made its announcement last week.

In a letter to the Williams community, president Maud S. Mandel said that teams will be able to practice outside in small groups if they adhere to social distancing guidelines, and may progress to more game-like practice activities if conditions improve. They will not be allowed to travel or compete.

“Our decision has been guided by the utmost attention to safety protocols to ensure the health and safety of our athletes, coaches, staff and community,” the letter says. “Decisions about winter and spring teams have not yet been made.”

The schools says it will use the NCAA’s three-phased guidelines for returning to sports activity.

In Phase I, workout/practice groups will be limited to 10 people (including coaches), social distancing will be adhered to, masks/face coverings will be worn when distancing cannot be maintained, equipment will not be shared among players, and training sessions will focus on individual skill work and conditioning.

In Phase II, workout/practice groups may increase in size, distancing will be adhered to, equipment may be shared among team members, and training sessions will include organized group activities. Masks/face coverings will be worn based upon current state and college guidelines when distancing cannot be maintained.

Phase III, (which the school notes it might not get to during the fall semester) allows for larger groups, shared use of equipment, organized group activities and competition.

The letter also says that the school has reduced the total cost of attendance by 15% “in recognition of the extraordinary circumstances of this academic year.”

Williams’ women’s swim and dive team finished fourth at the 2019 Division III NCAA Championships, and the men finished seventh. The school doesn’t have a water polo program.

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It’s only a matter of time when we see the rest of the NESCAC follow suit, and frankly, other prominent D3 conferences even start mandating this cancellation. The UAA comes to mind that probably would, especially with pretty much all their universities being in denser urban locations than NESCAC schools–Chicago, Atlanta, St. Louis, NYC vs. Williamstown, Amherst, Brunswick is probably a more difficult social distancing situation for the former group of cities!

And, I don’t think that’s very surprising.

The reality is that, while the D3 experience is a wonderful one, a great student-athlete balance, and so so important to those athletes in coaches, pulling the trigger on this is much easier to do for D3 schools.

Even at Williams, which ranks 1st in D3 for athletic spending per student, it’s only a few million dollars on the line, and their bread will always be buttered first-and-foremost by what they do for student-athletes academically. At Power 5 schools, it’s $100 million on the line, and very little of that has anything to do with what happens for current student-athletes academically.


Bowdoin is just bringing in their new first-year students for the fall semester, while upper class students are going to take their courses on-line. Is Williams doing likewise or will they be having their entire student body on campus for classes at the end of August? What are they planning (at this point) with regards to winter and spring sports? Will they forgo an entire your of varsity athletic competition with other schools? Hard to believe that they will do for some sports what they won’t do or are unable to do for the fall sports athletes/teams. Will all of the other NECAC schools join Bowdoin and Williams regarding this decision? If the answer is yes, why doesn’t their conference… Read more »


The entire Williams student body will arrive on the first week of September until Thanksgiving break, after which exams will be held remotely. All students will be tested upon arrival, and weekly thereafter, with strict social distancing in place. Tuition has also been reduced for the semester. Online study remains an option for those reluctant to return to campus.

No comment on Winter or Spring sports as of yet, but Winter Study in January has been cancelled and this is when the bulk of swim training and dual meets take place. I can’t envision the Eph’s cutting back on training altogether, especially with some swimmers at the cusp of an OT cut.

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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