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Mitchell excited about future despite missing out on fall season

When Todd Peretz looks out his office window, he has a great view of the nearly completed new Mitchell College athletic complex.

In about a month, the approximately $3.5 million project that features three artificial turf fields is expected to be ready for the fall season.

"It's nice because I can see the multi-purpose fields for our soccer and lacrosse and I can see our big M logo on the center of the field," said Peretz, who shares the athletic director duties with Casie Runksmeier. "I can look out and see foul poles on the baseball and softball fields and dugouts are being built. It's really, really exciting."

It's much harder for Peretz to see when the Mariners will play their first game there.

The view keeps on changing in the collegiate sports world.

The New England Collegiate Conference, of which Mitchell is a member, recently suspended the fall conference season due to health and safety concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NECC is planning on moving its fall sports season to the spring and also will push the start of the winter sports schedule until the second semester.

At the time of the decision in mid-July, Mitchell considered setting up some NCAA-sanctioned non-conference games with other Division III programs in the region. But it eventually scrapped that idea once other colleges elected not to play this fall.

Fall programs impacted include men's and women's soccer, men's and women's cross country and women's volleyball.

"Early on, we were holding out for the possibility of playing some regional opponents," Peretz said. "But, as each week has gone by, there's not a conference in New England that is playing in the fall."

Mitchell remains committed to giving its student-athletes a fall season, placing an importance on keeping them involved and engaged with their respective teams, according to Peretz.

Fall sports teams will hold practices, strength and conditioning workouts and team building exercises all while following safety guidelines and procedures.

"There will be practices," Peretz said. "Will it be a traditional type of practice? That's yet to be determined. I know our athletic trainers in our conference are putting together policing and procedures that are aligned obviously with state and local regulations as well as suggestions from the NCAA."

"There will be practices. How that's going to look will be constantly evolving."

First, Mitchell is focusing on welcoming back students in late August. Classes will be held remotely the first two weeks for all, including those living on campus in New London.

The Mariners have yet to announce when coaches will be allowed to practice with their teams. A change in the NCAA Division III calendar will give college programs some flexibility by allowing teams to define their season by days not weeks.

"They're moving to 114 days," Peretz said "What the NCAA is doing in realizing the value of the interaction with coaches and their teams, they're allowing you to take the total number of days and divvy that up how you see fit. So if you wanted to be involved with your athletes for 40 days in the fall and 74 days in the spring, so be it.

"The only sport that it doesn't pertain to is men's and women's basketball for us. What they've done for that is they've moved the start date up two weeks, so D-III college basketball has been moved up to Oct. 1 and you're still going under those total number of days."

It's highly unlikely there will be any basketball games until the second semester since many colleges are sending their students home at Thanksgiving and they will complete their fall semester online.

At this point, it's hard to predict what will happen next week, never mind in a few months.

"A lot of this is still a work in progress," Peretz said. "All of our discussion today could be obsolete in two weeks. I hate to say that, but it could be. But we're moving forward. We're really excited about having the kids back on campus and all the coaches throughout this whole time have been having Zoom meetings and group texts with their returning athletes and their incoming athletes."

Of course, there's a seemingly endless list of challenges ahead.

Working in its favor, Mitchell will have a new athletic complex for its teams to use.

Workouts will be far less likely to be canceled due to bad weather than on grass fields.

The new athletic complex already is a major source of pride within the Mitchell community.

"It is a good time for us," Peretz said. "It sends a really, really positive message at a time when a lot of projects are coming to a halt. Mitchell has made the commitment to athletics and moving forward with this construction is a really, really positive message."

g.keefe@theday.com

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