Bates College guard Nick Gilpin draws contact from Babson’s Frank Oftring during a November 2019 game in Lewiston. Brewster Burns for Bates College

Bates College athletic director Jason Fein misses the one, important feature of his job — watching Bobcat athletes compete in a variety of sports.

“You don’t expect that instead of going to practices and games and coordinating efforts there, honoring students … and that instead, you will be coordinating efforts to run a COVID-19 testing center,” he said. “The first part of the job is meetings all day and talking about budgets. It is also being able to see (athletes) compete. That’s been rough because I think a lot of folks in our industry feel is the fun parts of the job have been ripped away.” 

Bates College athletic director Jason Fein. Phyllis Graber Jensen photo for Bates College

But as COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket in Maine and around the nation, Fein is not sure what the future holds for winter sports programs.

“From our standpoint, we are scheduled to send students home next Tuesday and we are scheduled right now to come back Jan. 8 — if everything goes according to plan,” he explained. “Obviously, we will see what happens with COVID-19. 

“The NESCAC has already gone ahead and canceled the winter competition for the conference, and about half of the league has said they will not have any activities, most likely, in the winter. Most of those institutions have a different calendar than we do, and they are scheduled to come back not until February. It would be really hard for them to do anything in the winter because they won’t start until February.”

“So for us, we haven’t gone ahead and said, ‘OK, everything for the winter is definitely off,’ even though I think as time goes by, it looks more unlikely that there will be a lot of opportunities for any competition in the winter. I would say that while any intercollegiate competition this winter looks highly unlikely at the moment, we haven’t totally closed the door on the possibility that, should situations improve, we might be able to allow teams to engage in some type of limited, competitive activity, whether that be intrasquad or in-state.”

But Fein is aware that the continued rise in COVID-19 infections doesn’t bode well for a winter sports season.

“The conditions are not looking great for athletic competition anywhere on any level this winter,” he added. “Your indoor sports are definitely higher for a risk of transmission, and obviously being winter in Maine, there is not a lot opportunity to be outdoors unless you are skiing.”

Fein said there might be a possibility for Nordic competition, but that also remains to be seen. He added that the Nordic governing body hasn’t canceled all races, yet.

“The Alpine side is going to be a little different because we ski at Sunday River,” he said. “So it is a good hour-plus away from here, and some of the Sunday River facilities will not be available as they would in a regular year. You are talking about transporting students in vans and buses and enclosed spaces that make it tough for transmission risks.” 

Fein said he is keeping a close eye on any new coronavirus directives issued by NCAA and New England Small College Athletic Conference.

“The NCAA will kind of dictate the national scene and what the championships look like,” he said. “The NESCAC will dictate what we do as our 11 institutions and how we will compete against each other, and what we might do or not do as a group.”

Fein, who has been leading the Bates athletic department since 2017, admits that this has been a crazy year, unlike any he has never experienced in his career.

“I think that if there is anyone who is equipped to handle the unique challenges, it is student-athletes, coaches and athletic administrators,” he said. “You are used to planning for the unexpected. I think our students and our coaching staff made it easier on me, but it has been rough for sure.” 

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