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In their first competition since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, seven Dartmouth athletic teams will return to action this weekend. It has been 407 days since a Big Green team last competed, and although Ivy League competition this spring has been canceled, the conference has permitted Dartmouth teams to compete in non-Ivy competitions within 100 miles of Hanover.
Some of Dartmouth’s most accomplished athletes decided to transfer in the past year due to canceled seasons and the Ivy League’s policy against graduate athletic participation. Although the Ivy League Council of Presidents voted in February to allow current seniors admitted into graduate programs at their schools to compete as fifth-year players, it was too late for a number of Big Green athletes. Men’s basketball player Chris Knight ’21, who will play at Loyola University Chicago next year, criticized the timing of the Ivy League’s decision, noting that he and his teammates did not believe they had enough time to apply to Dartmouth graduate programs.
Since my last column, not much has changed outside of a couple of injuries in the NBA and Hideki Matsuyama’s triumph in the 2021 Masters. But we’ll get to the NBA much more in the next few weeks, and I don’t feel like talking about golf until I can consistently hit my driver more than 100 yards; maybe in a few years I’ll write about the PGA Tour.
In September, following stints as general manager for the New York Mets from 2010 until 2018 and as senior advisor of baseball operations to Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane in 2019, Sandy Alderson ’69 stepped into the role of Mets team president. Alderson, who has worked in Major League Baseball since 1981, sat down with The Dartmouth to discuss his time at the College, his experience as a journalist and marine in Vietnam, his career in baseball and more.
As Dartmouth sports teams begin spring practices amid their fourth consecutive season impacted by COVID-19, warmer weather is allowing for the opening of some outdoor facilities and, for Dartmouth student-athletes, brings with it the promise of a return to competition in the near future. Despite the Ivy League’s decision to cancel conference play this spring, Dartmouth teams will be allowed by the conference to compete in non-Ivy competitions within 100 miles of Hanover, Provost Joseph Helble said in a “Community Conversations” livestream Wednesday. Softball, men’s and women’s track and field and men’s and women’s tennis are scheduled to begin competing on April 24, while men’s lacrosse and possibly heavyweight rowing are expected to begin competing later in the spring. Spectators will not be allowed at those competitions, and details are being finalized by the athletics department, according to Helble.
When Chris Knight ’21 arrived as a 17-year-old freshman in Hanover, he did not think that he was physically or mentally ready for college basketball. But Knight quickly gained confidence and made an impact from the very start of his Dartmouth basketball career, ultimately becoming one of the program’s best players in recent memory. After his graduation from the College this spring, Knight will be taking his talents to Loyola University Chicago as a graduate transfer student.
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.