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Conn College's White still hopeful Camels will have a fall sports season

Connecticut College athletic director Mo White says she's a crazy optimist at heart.

Her bountiful supply of optimism is coming in handy.

The list of challenges for colleges seems to grow every day during the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest news that impacts Conn College is Monday's announcement by fellow New England Small College Athletic Conference member Williams College not participate in fall athletics.

That decision came less than two weeks after Bowdoin College, another NESCAC school, announced that it canceled its fall season, as well as winter sports during the first semester. Williams is still evaluating whether or not to start its winter season on time.

Conn College is one nine NESCAC members still trying to chart a course for the 2020-21 academic and athletic year, and White is optimistic that it will include fall sports.

"I'm very hopeful," White said. "I'm a crazy optimist at heart. I think there's a path forward. The challenge becomes our community and students committing to embracing a pledge to keep everybody safe. That's a challenge we're seeing across the country. There's so many different views on masks and safety precautions, it makes it a little difficult.

"So, as a community, we'd all have to embrace this for the safety of all."

White has regular virtual meetings with her fellow NESCAC athletic directors to discuss different scenarios. Any game plan will place a priority on the health and safety of the students, staff and college community.

The NESCAC provided an update on its planning on June 19, stating in a release that "as institutions finalize their plans for the coming year, federal, state, and local health guidance, as well as institutional policies, will guide their independent decisions regarding reopening. Athletics engagement is an important part of the experience for many of our students, and member institutions remain committed to this experience.

"However, this will not be a traditional fall on campus in any respect, including for athletics. The conference continues to develop plans for the return to athletics, including possible modifications to NESCAC rules to allow institutions flexibility to provide for meaningful experiences for students within school policies and federal, state, and local health directives."

Complicating matters from an athletic standpoint, NESCAC members are scattered around five states that are all in various stages of the pandemic.

Conn College, Trinity and Wesleyan reside in Connecticut while Bates, Bowdoin and Colby are in Maine, Amherst, Tufts and Williams in Massachusetts, Middlebury in Vermont and Hamilton in New York.

"We're at the beck and call of the guidance from each of our states and their departments of higher ed, so it becomes complicated," White said. "And all of the states are in different terms of re-opening, quarantine and permissible travel. A lot of moving pieces to the puzzle."

White is hoping to avoid what happened earlier this year when the NCAA was forced to cancel the spring season.

She's crossing her fingers that the fall season will go on as scheduled.

"I just have a great staff, wonderful head coaches and incredible student-athletes," White said. "You want to do the best by them. This experience is so important to them. I know what it was like for me as a student-athlete. It would be heartbreaking. It's just a matter of working hard so when we do have answers we're prepared to react as quickly as we can to put a solid plan in place."

So when will that plan be in place?

By mid-July, according to White.

"Hopefully, we will have answers soon to be able to provide our student-athletes with the critical information that they need," White said. "Everybody is ansty for a decision. This just happens to be a circumstance where time is our friend. I think continually reminding everybody that every day brings some positive news and then it brings some negative news.

"Testing is the most critical thing for us. That's a major answer that we're pretty close to having."

g.keefe@theday.com

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