BY HERB SMITH
Nick Sottile knows the routine well. He uses July and August to get himself ready for the grind of football season.
While the Riverside graduate continues to prepare for his senior season at Susquehanna University, he won’t be able to compete until the spring, if at all.
On Tuesday, the Centennial Conference announced the suspension all intercollegiate athletics for the fall semester because of health concerns related to COVID-19. Fall sports in the conference in addition to football are cross country, golf, soccer, tennis and women’s volleyball.
The conference, which is comprised of NCAA Division III schools in Pennsylvania and Maryland, said in a press release it will reevaluate the decision by the end of September “based on conference analysis to assess sports-specific activities and the experiences then with COVID-19 on the schools’ campuses,” but that football will not be played in the fall. The conference will explore the possibility of shifting certain sports, including football, to the spring.
“I hadn’t heard anything so it caught me off guard,” said Sottile, who learned the news in a team meeting before Tuesday’s announcement by the conference. “But after hearing the Ivy League was thinking about moving things, I knew us, being a Division III school, we would be the first to cut or postpone. We don’t make any profits, it’s just for the love of the game.”
The safety, who was fifth on the River Hawks with 42 tackles last season, was conducting off-season workouts from a plan sent by the team’s strength and conditioning coach.
“Usually around now, I’d start getting together with a couple of guys to get the feeling of practicing with other players,” Sottile said. “I was doing as much as I could to be prepared. In my mind, I’m still going back so I’m still doing my part. You have to do what you can to get ready.”
Sottile’s former Riverside teammate Riley Gaughan, a senior defensive lineman, and Western Wayne graduate Ben Burkhardt, a junior linebacker, are also on Susquehanna’s roster.
The River Hawks are coming off a 10-1 season with their only loss coming to conference champion Muhlenberg College (13-1), which reached the NCAA Division III semifinals.
Delaware Valley graduate Tyler Magee had five tackles and a sack as a sophomore for the Muhls last year.
“It’s unfortunate with how everything went down (Tuesday), but I think a lot of schools will follow suit,” Magee said. “You hold out hope until you hear the word and we heard the word. It’s disappointing, but at the end of the day, it’s about our health and safety. The conference didn’t feel us playing was worth the risk and I support that decision.”
Other former Lackawanna Football Conference players returning in the Centennial Conference, based on an inventory of 2019 rosters are Moravian’s Anthony Merone (Western Wayne) and Muhlenberg’s Eugene Salmond (West Scranton).
“As with all of our decisions since the onset of COVID-19, the health, safety and well-being of our campus community, including our student-athletes, remains paramount,” presidents council chairman Roger Casey said in the statement. “We want our students to have an opportunity to participate in intercollegiate athletics in a safe environment, and this decision recognizes that these plans may be revised as we receive further guidance from health officials.”
Susquehanna is a football-only member in the Centennial Conference. Other members of the conference include Dickinson, McDaniel, Franklin & Marshall, Moravian, Gettysburg, Muhlenberg, Johns Hopkins, Juniata, Ursinus, Bryn Mawr, Haverford, Swarthmore and Washington College. Juniata and Moravian are also football-only members. For all other sports besides football, Susquehanna, Juniata and Moravian are members of the Landmark Conference.
The decision by the Centennial Conference has an impact on the football programs at Misericordia University and King’s College. Moravian was scheduled to open the season at home against King’s on Sept. 5, while Misericordia was set to host McDaniel the same day.
STEVE BENNETT, a Times-Shamrock staff writer, contributed to this report.