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The sports world looks very different since I wrote my last column in mid-November. As vaccination rollout continues across the country, fans begin to file back into seats, and the world inches toward normalcy, we’ve been able to enjoy a spectacular few weeks in the sports world. Last year, COVID-19 hit just as March Madness was about to begin, forcing the cancellation of the 2020 tournament and depriving us of buzzer-beaters and Cinderella stories. Fortunately, the 2021 tournament has provided two years worth of excitement.
Just two weeks after his promotion to the Pittsburgh Penguins taxi squad in January, Drew O’Connor ’22 made his National Hockey League debut against the Boston Bruins. Though the Penguins fell in a 3-2 loss, O’Connor contributed an assist on the first goal of the game, marking his first career point in his first career appearance.
Last month, lightweight rower Cooper Tuckerman ’22 competed in the U.S.Olympic Team trials in Sarasota, Florida. Despite not making the team for the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo, Tuckerman enjoyed being able to race again after almost a year — a tumultuous one that saw the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the termination of the Dartmouth men’s lightweight rowing team and the subsequent reinstatement of that team.
On March 9, two Dartmouth students testified verbally over Zoom before the New Hampshire House Education Committee against House Bill 198 — legislation that would ban transgender women from competing in women’s sports in public schools. The committee voted to retain the bill on Tuesday, delaying it for a year to clarify the wording of the bill and examine additional research.
Nearly one year ago, on March 10, 2020, the Ivy League Council of Presidents called off the Ivy League men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, marking the first Division I postseason tournament cancellation as national COVID-19 cases surged past 1,000. The following day, the Ivy League became the first conference to cancel all athletic activities through the remainder of the academic year, preceding the NBA’s suspension of its season that night and a flood of professional and collegiate cancellations on March 12.
Just over five weeks after being reinstated, the men’s and women’s golf teams appear close to announcing their new home golf course for practice and competition.
As Dartmouth and the Ivy League approach a full year without athletic competition, the College’s process of recruiting athletes has changed significantly. COVID-19 restrictions have drastically limited in-person scouting and campus visits, and coaches face an additional challenge: convincing athletes to commit to a conference that, almost uniquely among Division I schools, has not seen competition since last March, and choosing a school recovering from the controversial elimination and reinstatement of five sports teams.
On Wednesday, the College notified student-athletes that it had canceled all in-person athletic activities due to a spike in COVID-19 cases on campus. As of Monday’s COVID-19 dashboard update, there were 122 active cases among students — over quadruple the number of cases reported as the surge was first recorded on Wednesday.
On Feb. 18, The Ivy League announced the cancellation of all conference athletic competition this spring, marking the second consecutive canceled spring season and the fourth straight season without athletic competition.
On Feb. 17, the Dartmouth athletics department announced that three coaches from the five reinstated teams would return to their positions, including diving coach Chris Hamilton, men’s golf head coach Rich Parker and men’s lightweight rowing head coach Dan Roock. Former swimming and diving head coach Jamie Holder and women’s golf head coach Alex Kirk chose not to return to the Big Green staff.
On Feb. 7, Alpine skier Andrew Miller ’22 competed for Team USA at the Europa Cup after spending the past few months training across Europe. Miller placed 56th in the giant slalom, qualifying him for his first World Cup appearance, which will take place in Bansko, Bulgaria this weekend.
On Tuesday, Peter Roby ’79 assumed the role of the College’s interim athletics director, which he will serve as through June 2022. Roby, a varsity basketball player during his time at Dartmouth and athletics director at Northeastern University from 2007 to 2018, succeeded former athletics director Harry Sheehy, who announced his retirement earlier in February after months of controversy surrounding the elimination and eventual reinstatement of five varsity athletic teams.
Last month, the athletics department announced the reinstatement of five teams originally cut in July: men’s and women’s golf, men’s lightweight rowing and men’s and women’s swimming and diving. Athletes from both the reinstated sports and other teams have expressed support for the College’s decision, though some say they have been left with a lasting distrust of the athletics department.
On Thursday afternoon, the Ivy League announced the cancellation of all spring league competition and championships. The conference left open the possibility of non-conference competition, outlining a process that may allow for limited local competition during the spring.
On Thursday, the Ivy League Council of Presidents voted to allow current seniors admitted into graduate programs at their schools to compete as fifth-year players. The decision is a one-time, pandemic-related exception that breaks with a long-standing Ivy League precedent limiting athletic participation to undergraduate students.
After more than a decade as athletics director, Harry Sheehy, 68, will retire this month. Peter Roby ’79 will serve as interim athletics director starting Feb. 16.
After Dartmouth reinstated their teams on Jan. 29, student-athletes on the men’s and women’s golf, men’s lightweight rowing and men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams are preparing to resume training.
The College’s reinstatement of five athletic teams, announced on Jan. 29, was the culmination of a two-month legal process that began in early December. Before settling with the College, 21 plaintiffs from the women’s golf and women’s swimming and diving teams alleged that the program eliminations violated Title IX.
On Jan. 26, the NFL’s Washington Football Team announced the promotion of former Dartmouth offensive assistant Jennifer King from a full-year coaching intern to the assistant running backs coach, making her the first Black woman to serve as a full-time coach in professional football history.
On Thursday evening, the Dartmouth Political Union hosted a panel of professional athletes to discuss the intersection of politics and professional sports, touching on topics including Black Lives Matter protests and kneeling for the national anthem.