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Athletics remain paused in Modified Activity Level Two

Pre-season administrative activities begin but practices remain halted, facilities closed

As academics transition toward normalcy with the University’s recent move to "Modified Activity Level Two," lifting restrictions on in-person classes of 19 students or fewer, varsity athletics remain at a standstill. 

Activity Level Two allows for “limited training and practicing in groups of up to 15 people, with masks or social distancing,” according to the Healthy@Brown website. But in the Modified Activity Level Two, athletic facilities remain closed, and no sports practices are allowed. Students may exercise outdoors with masks and social distancing.

Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey ’91 MA’06 attributed the modification to the increased number of students living on campus in the  spring semester. “We have a larger population of students than we did in the fall, (and) we have a larger population of students who are new to college life — particularly (COVID-19) college life — so we want to prioritize academics,” Carey said. “It’s very sad to say, because I understand that student-athletes (and) all students in general have experiences outside of the classroom that are very important.” 

The men’s and women’s lacrosse teams expressed their desire to return to competition for  the  spring season in a recent letter, The Herald previously reported, and noted that all Division I colleges outside the Ivy League are currently competing in athletics. 

Football quarterback EJ Perry ’21 lost his senior season in the fall but hopes for a return to spring athletics. “I was hoping there would be some advocacy for spring sports, especially because I know they lost their season last (year),” Perry said. “I’ve talked to some guys on the (football) team and I know we support everything that was said in that letter. We want to see spring sports be played, and hopefully we can have spring practices.” 

The decision to participate in athletic competition is made at a league level, meaning Brown cannot decide to participate without full agreement among all eight Ivy League colleges, according to Carey. But if the Ivy League chooses to return to competition before Brown advances to the appropriate Activity Level, Brown does not have to rejoin play. 

“We’re going to be guided by the policies on our campus,” Deputy Director of Athletics Colin Sullivan said. “Everybody is in a different situation. I do know, across the league, some schools are behind us in terms of even having students back to campus.” 

The athletic department does not have a representative on the governing board in charge of the campus Activity Levels and typically receives information on COVID-19 restrictions at the same time as the rest of the campus, by way of the Healthy@Brown website. “You really have to look to the University in terms of (a timeline for) return to play because that’s where we’re getting our guidance in terms of when facilities are going to be open and if the levels have changed. We sit here and wait for those decisions,” Sullivan said. “I would only be speculating if I gave you a timeline, because I don’t know.”

Coaches remain optimistic about the potential of a  spring season but are tempering their hopes for competition with a respect for the public health measures taken by the University. “We’re in a unique position where, by design, our sport is socially distanced,” said Baseball Head Coach Grant Achilles. “As we progress through the phases at both the Ivy League and institutional levels, I’ve been excited and eagerly anticipating this progression and communication.” 

As players wait to return to competition, they remain positive. “I know that the coaches and the administration are fighting for us,” Perry said. “President Paxson (P’19) was obviously at the forefront of bringing us back here by setting up a plan. We’re just excited to be back, and super excited to see the spring sports play.”

Meanwhile, teams are preparing for the moment they will be authorized to take the field again by completing their pre-season regulatory requirements,  said University spokesperson Brian Clark. “For a period of time last fall, we were in Ivy League phase one. There were certain controlled group activities that were allowed to proceed. The intent would be to move to something similar (in the spring).”

“We want to get to a place where those (group activities) are as available as possible,” Carey said. “If we moved too quickly and had spread, clusters or outbreaks, like we’ve seen on other campuses, everything would get pushed back.” If this were to happen, Carey said, “we’d take several steps backward and be unsure of when we’d be able to move forward again.”



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