York College opts out of several Middle Atlantic Conference winter sports

York College President Gunter-Smith

York College was scheduled to begin its first-ever Middle Atlantic Conference athletic season in late August.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has indefinitely sidelined those plans. It’s now mid-January and the Spartans have still yet to play a MAC sports event, and it’s uncertain when the Spartans will finally make their MAC debut.

York College President Pamela Gunter-Smith released an announcement on Tuesday regarding the Spartans' participation in the 2020-21 winter athletic season.

In the statement, Gunter-Smith said York will not participate in MAC winter athletic competitions in men's and women's basketball, men's and women's indoor track and field and wrestling. Decisions regarding men's and women's swimming and spring sports will be made later.

York’s fall sports competitions had also previously been canceled.

Health and safety is top priority: “As we have dealt with the various challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, I have expressed that my top priority and main concern is the health and safety of the York College community,” Gunter-Smith said in a news release. “The public health environment relating to COVID-19, including here in Pennsylvania, is worse now than when the decision to cancel fall sports was made by our athletic conference. The only responsible decision at this time, I believe, is to opt out of participation in winter sports.”

Paul Saikia

Gunter-Smith said the decision was made in consultation with Paul Saikia, York’s assistant dean for athletics and recreation.

“This decision was not reached without considering how it would impact our student-athletes who have been preparing for collegiate competition much of their lives, as well as the coaches who dedicate tremendous time and energy to ensuring our student-athletes are successful both on the field and in the classroom,” Gunter-Smith said. “I empathize with parents – our best and most loyal fans – who have made sacrifices to allow their students to reach this level of competition.

"COVID-19 has forced me and others at York College to make a number of difficult and often unpopular decisions. The driving force behind those decisions has always been ensuring that we make our best effort to mitigate the spread of the virus among our York College community.”

MAC plans: In early December, the MAC announced a tentative plan for men’s and women’s basketball to start a conference-only season no earlier than mid-February with a 5-to-6 week schedule and the possibility of a conference championship.

The MAC  swimming season is slated to start in early March, potentially culminating with a MAC Championship in mid-April.

The 2021 MAC Indoor Track & Field Championships and the 2021 MAC Wrestling Championship were canceled by the MAC in early December. However, the conference presidents supported institutional autonomy for indoor track & field and wrestling, allowing each institution to schedule outside competition at its discretion.

Joining the MAC: York officially joined the MAC on July 1, 2020, after nearly three decades as a member of the Capital Athletic Conference.

York was coming off a strong winter season in CAC action in 2019-2020, compiling records of 23-6 in men's basketball, 17-11 in women's basketball, 8-2 in men's swimming, 8-2 in women's swimming and 8-9 in wrestling, good for an overall mark of 64-30. The men's basketball team won a CAC title.

The MAC is an NCAA Division III conference that is split into the MAC Commonwealth and MAC Freedom. York is scheduled to be a Commonwealth member.

The 18 member institutions in the MAC are: Albright College (Reading), Alvernia University (Reading), Arcadia University (Glenside), Delaware Valley University (Doylestown), DeSales University (Center Valley), Eastern University (St. Davids), Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham Campus (Madison, N.J.), Hood College (Frederick, Md.), King’s College (Wilkes-Barre), Lebanon Valley College (Annville), Lycoming College (Williamsport), Messiah University (Mechanicsburg), Misericordia University (Dallas), Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, N.J.), Stevenson University (Owings Mills, Md.), Widener University (Chester) and Wilkes University (Wilkes-Barre) and York.

The other schools in the Commonwealth with York are:  Alvernia, Arcadia, Hood, Widener, Stevenson, Albright, Messiah, Lycoming and Lebanon Valley.

Reach Steve Heiser at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.