Emily Joss, Staff Writer
On Jan. 9 the UC student-athlete community received an email from Director of Athletics Dave Fontaine describing much of what the athletes can expect in their one-of-a-kind upcoming season.
Fontaine announced the Empire 8’s intentions to begin conference play during the spring semester for teams from all three seasons.
The tentative start and end dates were provided as follows:
- Fall sports- including men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s tennis and volleyball will compete from March 6 through April 25
- Winter sports teams that consist of men’s and women’s basketball, indoor track and field and swimming and diving will begin their season on March 1 and will conclude on April 11
- Spring sports including baseball, women’s golf, men’s and women’s lacrosse, outdoor track and field, softball and men’s tennis will begin their respective seasons as originally scheduled.
The start date for the water polo team is still yet to be determined by the Collegiate Water Polo Association.
Additionally, Fontaine’s letter marked the start of UC’s men’s and women’s hockey as Feb. 19. However, as per the Utica Pioneers website, this date has since changed to Feb 11 and 13 respectively, where the men’s team will host the US Under-17 National Team and the women’s team will open their season at Elmira College.
As this is the first time in Utica College history that the conference will be providing competition for all 26 teams in one season, Dave Fontaine said it took an “all hands on deck” approach.
“The credit for the game schedules goes to the Empire 8 Conference, United Collegiate Hockey Conference, Collegiate Water Polo Association and Northeast Women’s Golf Conference,” said Fontaine, giving credit to respective conferences for determining the schedules.
Even yet, games and pre-season practice would not be possible without much help from all the teams’ coaches and the entire athletic department assisting in “a cross-sport effort” to make this season possible.
“Game day management is handled by Jim Murnane (associate AD with responsibility for game management), Laurel Simer (sports information director) and Chris Warner (head athletic trainer),” Fontaine said. “They provide game worker staff, sports information coverage and medical coverage.”
Prior to returning to campus, all student-athletes were required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result that would be uploaded to a Student Health Portal and COVID-19 Test Data Survey.
The PDF description of student-athlete testing during the spring semester is vague, stating only that, “student-athletes will be required to participate in regular surveillance pooled saliva PCR testing,” and detailed information is to follow.
It is now understood that COVID testing both here at UC and across the Empire 8 conference is “in compliance with all NCAA recommendations,” as stated by Fontaine.
UC requires student-athletes to test three times every week.
Although many athletes initially feel that three tests appear to be excessive, they are also aware that testing like this is exactly what has to be done to play the games they love.
“I’m really happy with the way that UC is testing everyone, especially athletes multiple times a week, allowing us to do the things we love,” junior softball player Kaitlyn Paul said. “Yes, it can be annoying but they are putting all efforts into helping us play the sports we love while also keeping us safe.”
For many athletes, it has been well over a year since they’ve been able to compete, so most of them are willing to do whatever it takes to get back in the pool or step back out onto the field, the court or the ice.
“It feels really good to be back on the field and in the classroom with my friends and teammates,” junior lacrosse player Josh Bennett said. “UC is doing their best to keep us all safe and it’s showing considering many schools are online and not playing sports at all.”
Fontaine expressed a special thank you to many individuals across the campus, including coaches, who have volunteered their time at the COVID testing site in Streble Student Center.
“Their efforts have been successfully guided by VP for Emergency Management Shad Crowe through the support and direction of President Casamento,” he said.