Lawrence University’s Banta Bowl

The Midwest Conference has suspended play for the fall season following a meeting of the league’s Presidents Council on Monday.

The presidents of the 10 conference institutions made the decision to suspend play for the fall season and to delay the start of the winter sports season through the end of 2020, according to a statement from the Midwest Conference (MWC). The presidents made the decision in coordination with their athletic directors in order to protect the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches, staff, and the campus and local communities, the statement said.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes is our top priority,” Director of Athletics Kim Tatro said. “With the surge of COVID-19 cases around the country, we believe this is the best course of action to protect our student-athletes, coaches, faculty and staff.”

See Lawrence’s Planning for Fall 2020, including FAQ, here.

See more on Lawrence Athletics here.

See Midwest Conference FAQ here.

The MWC will continue to monitor the factors impacting the decision for suspension of the fall and winter sport seasons and take action to resume athletic competition when it is deemed safe to do so, according to the statement from the league office.

Tatro, who has been a member of the Lawrence coaching staff since 1993, saw her final season as the softball coach cut short back in March as the pandemic forced the cancellation of the rest of the spring sports season.

“This was a very difficult decision for everyone involved in the process,” Tatro said. “Our student-athletes want to compete and our coaches want to be leading their teams. We certainly understand the desire of our student-athletes to play the games they love so dearly, but the dangers of exposure to COVID-19 are just too great.”

Lawrence teams that are affected by this are football, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s tennis, men’s and women’s cross country, and volleyball. The start of competition would be delayed for men’s and women’s basketball and men’s and women’s swimming (indoor track also is included, but Lawrence traditionally doesn’t compete during the indoor season until January). The Presidents Council had decided in mid-July to limit fall competition to Midwest Conference opponents only, but a dramatic increase in cases around the nation forced the league to evaluate the situation further.

“Throughout the summer Lawrence searched for ways to mount a fall athletic season while working hard to ensure our student-athletes and their coaches remained healthy,” Lawrence President Mark Burstein said. “After many conference conversations it is clear that not all members can support the NCAA health guidelines for competition. In light of this situation, I deeply regret that the conference has decided to not proceed with competition this fall. This is a significant disappointment for me personally, and I am sure is a disappointment for many. I know Athletics Director Tatro and her team will find ways to keep our student-athletes engaged and in physical and mental shape, and I look forward to seeing our programs compete in future seasons.”

The Midwest Conference joins more than 20 NCAA Division III conferences that have suspended play for the fall season.

Decisions regarding men’s and women’s hockey, which both fall under the auspices of the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association, and men’s and women’s fencing, which is part of the Midwest Fencing Conference, will occur at a later date, according to Tatro. All four of those teams are scheduled to begin their seasons with practice in October.

“Our hope is to get through this arduous time and return to some sense of normalcy,” Tatro said. “I eagerly anticipate the day when our teams can return. Adversity is something our student-athletes deal with on a regular basis and this situation is no different. We will move forward in a manner that will make the best of a difficult situation.”