UVM Athletics awaits guidance for upcoming season, following tumultuous year of setbacks


Abbie Kopelowitz

Virtue Field, behind the Patrick Gymnasium, as seen the morning of April 27.

Following a year marred by COVID outbreaks, cancellations and lost revenue, the UVM athletic department lacks answers about what the future holds for the 2021-2022 seasons. 

The UVM athletic department will be waiting on decisions from the NCAA and the America East Conference before making any official announcements about athletics in the coming academic year, said UVM Athletic Director Jeff Schulman. 

Thus far, within America East, UMass Lowell, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, State University of New York and the University of Maryland are the schools that have announced vaccination requirements for students and faculty accessing campus resources, including athletic facilities. 

“Requirements for returning students in the fall – including vaccination mandates – will be up to individual colleges and universities,” said Ben Truman, Public Health Communication Officer for the state of Vermont.

Due to the lack of direction from the state, it is still unclear whether UVM students, athletes and otherwise, will be required to be vaccinated before returning to campus this fall. 

“We’re certainly strongly encouraging all of our athletes to be vaccinated,” Schulman said. “If we’re going to have a more normal athletic season it’s going to require that we have very, very high vaccination rates among our student athletes.”

The NCAA did not respond to the Cynic’s request for comment regarding expectations for the upcoming fall seasons. 

Athletics at UVM during the 2020-2021 academic year have looked very different than in years past. Due to uncertainty surrounding protocols, fall sports seasons were postponed until the spring. 

When sports did return to UVM, an absence of ad and ticket revenue led to a deficit of at least $2 million, Schulman said. Numerous outbreaks of COVID-19 caused game cancellations and forced whole teams into quarantine. 

The NCAA is overseeing an unprecedented number of sports being played during the current traditional spring season. This preoccupation has prevented any official announcement about upcoming seasons from the organization, said Joe Gervias, UVM associate athletic director for compliance & sport administration.

“We haven’t really got much guidance from the NCAA about next year at this point,” said Gervais. “As the CDC guidance continues to evolve, the NCAA will respond accordingly.”

A lack of firm decisions from higher organizations isn’t deterring cautious optimism within the UVM athletic department. Lower infection rates and higher vaccination rates are making the possibility of a “normal” fall season look more and more likely, said Schulman. 

“Right now we’re looking forward to a much greater degree of normalcy in this coming year, but if there’s anything that we have learned from COVID it’s that nothing can be taken for granted,” Schulman said. “We’ll certainly remain nimble and be prepared to pivot and adjust as necessary.”