Athletics (March 9, 2021)

To the Bowdoin community,

Late this afternoon, the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) announced plans to conduct limited spring sports play on a regional basis from mid-April to mid-May, with competition scheduled on weekends. Each school will make its own decisions about engaging in this limited competition, taking into account campus protocols, equity across activities, and the ability to field teams depending on the number of athletes on campus.

While Bowdoin will not participate in competition outside of Maine, consistent with our campus COVID-19 travel rules, I am happy to tell you that the College will offer the opportunity for some of our fall, winter, and spring varsity teams to compete in state with athletes from schools that have the same testing protocols as Bowdoin—including Bates and Colby—while also meeting health and safety guidelines. Competition schedules have not been finalized but will be provided at a later date.

As we reach the one-year mark in the pandemic, we all know the terrible costs that COVID-19 has brought to so many individuals and families. Over 525,000 Americans have lost their lives, millions have lost jobs and suffered economic hardship, and the costs beyond our shores have been equally profound. The disruption for K-12 and college students has been significant, and while I am confident we will recover, the consequences of this disruption will be with us for some time.

For every person in the Bowdoin community, there have been personal losses and great challenges in navigating the events of this past year. As the spring semester moves ahead and we look forward to a return to something close to normal in the fall, it is essential that we do all we can, even in modest ways, to resume the personal engagement and the activities that are important to each of us and that help define us as individuals. This has already begun or is planned in other areas of the College. For example, classes in theater and dance are using antigen tests, as are a few other classes in order to offer field trips. Protocols have been developed to allow close interaction in some on-campus labs, while the Outing Club is sponsoring selected trips in Maine and the McKeen Center is planning safe community volunteer activities. The opportunity for our student-athletes on campus to compete in a manner that is consistent with campus practices, even on a limited basis, allows them to return to an activity that is central to who they are and moves us that much closer to normal. As I announced in my message last week, we expect there to be a full athletic schedule in the fall.

NESCAC has developed rules governing competition and we have enhanced these rules for consistency with our health and safety protocols. Competition guidelines for Bowdoin teams will include:

  • Athletes, coaches, and staff from both teams engaged in competition must be tested for COVID-19 twice per week using a PCR test.
  • Athletes, coaches, and administrative staff from both teams, as well as officials, bus drivers, and game management staff, will receive COVID-19 antigen tests on the day of competition.
  • Athletes will travel directly to the site of competition in “game ready” status (in uniform and without the need to access locker or training room facilities—portable restrooms will be provided at the site of outdoor competitions).
  • For home contests, athletes from other schools will travel directly to our playing fields and will not be permitted on our central campus. They will depart the athletic venue immediately following competition.
  • Face coverings must be worn during competition by all participants and staff.
  • Spectators will not be permitted at Bowdoin events, but it is anticipated that home contests will be streamed online by the Northeast Sports Network.

Further updates will be provided at GoUBears.com.

Our goal continues to be protecting the health and safety of those in the Bowdoin and Brunswick communities. We are also committed to doing everything we can to hold an in-person Commencement in May. As we monitor the trajectory of the pandemic locally and elsewhere in Maine—in particular, the impact of the virus variants—it is possible that we will not be able to go forward with these plans for athletic competition or that we might have to adjust them along the way due to federal, state, or local restrictions.

I am proud of the work done by students, faculty, and staff at the outset of the spring semester to comply with campus safety and activity guidelines. Thank you for continuing to care for yourself and for one another.

All the best,

Clayton