Campus Bulletin: Current Students, Faculty and Staff, Parents, ObieSafe

Critical Fall Sports Announcement

July 8, 2020 4:00 PM

President Carmen Twillie Ambar and Athletics Director Natalie Winkelfoos

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

I wanted you to be aware of the difficult message we provided to our coaches and athletes today to suspend fall competitive sports. This decision came out of countless hours consulting with our Board, the NCAC (our athletic league), and public health officials. It was important to announce this decision in advance of the July 20 deadline for students to declare their intent to return to campus. Our athletics staff will shift their focus and energies toward creating an environment for our student athletes that promotes teamwork, physical fitness, campus competition, mental discipline and more.  We know that we cannot fully replicate the joy of competition, but we are committed to developing an experience for our student athletes that is of value.

Carmen Twillie Ambar, President

July 8, 2020

Dear Oberlin Student-Athletes,

We hope you all are well and safe. We certainly are looking forward to your return to campus in slightly more than a month.

It is hard to appreciate the full extent of the changes this pandemic has imposed upon us all. We are all adapting. We have been preparing the campus, reorganizing the curriculum to accommodate the three-semester plan, and above all, focusing on a return that provides as safe an environment as is possible for our students.

We have been working tirelessly to establish the strategies to mitigate the impact of the virus, particularly as it relates to athletics.  We have spent countless hours exploring ways in which we could provide you with a competitive experience that is safe, devoid of daily disruption and uncertainty.

After consultation with several members of the Board of Trustees, NCAC officials, presidents and athletic directors within our conference and beyond, and public health professionals, we have reluctantly come to the conclusion that conducting fall sports safely is just not possible at this time.

We do not believe that we can create a safe framework to conduct fall sports because of the high contact required in almost all of the sports.  We found the risk that this would place on our student-athletes to be unacceptable.  Just as importantly, it would extend risk to our campus community, and, if we were to compete against other teams, it would extend the risk to our competitors and vice-versa.

We know that individual institutions will be making their campus-based decisions about athletics over the next few weeks.  We also understand that our conference will attempt to conduct some athletics competitions this fall.  We respect these individual and conference decisions.  But, despite the conference plans, we are suspending the competitive fall athletic season.

This has been a difficult decision.  As former competitive athletes, we realize there is nothing that can replicate the joy of competition.  But, we also know this is the right decision.  We have been looking at the national trends and watching as one positive COVID-19 case is requiring an entire team to be quarantined for 14 days.  It seemed inevitable that if we moved forward with athletics this fall, most if not all of our student-athletes would have cancelled games, shortened seasons and unsatisfactory outcomes.

We informed our coaching staff earlier today of this decision. We are informing you and the rest of the Oberlin community to provide as much advance notice as possible. Students will need to declare their intent to return mid-July. It was important to make this decision now, so your declaration could be informed by the news.  This announcement impacts football, volleyball, cross country, field hockey and men’s and women’s soccer.

While we may not be competing this fall, we hope to create an environment for our student-athletes that promotes teamwork, physical fitness, campus competition, mental discipline and more. Our athletics staff will shift their focus and energies toward building an experience that will still provide our student-athletes the physical and mental challenges they desire.

We will explore all options for us to gather safely for training sessions while we sharpen our students’ leadership.  With this decision made, we now have an incredible opportunity to choose to focus on what is in our control.

We know you still have questions. We will hold a webinar on Tuesday, July 14 at 3:00 p.m. EDT, where we will be joined by our fall sports head coaches and Dean Raimondo to talk with you and answer your questions. You must register in advance using the link provided via email.

We hope you can make it.

Carmen Twillie Ambar

Natalie Winkelfoos
Associate Vice President for Athletics Advancement
and Delta Lodge Director of Athletics and Physical Education