Winter sports championships canceled due to low participation


Madison DePover

Dylan McChesney defeats Warburg’s Owen McGlave by medical forfeit on Saturday, Jan. 30.

by Jake Brend, Sports Editor

NCAA Division III decided to cancel all 2021 winter championships on Feb. 3 due to low winter sports participation. 

For Simpson, this means that men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s indoor track and field and wrestling will not be able to participate in any national championships this season. 

The decision was a shock to players, but not to athletic director Marty Bell and other athletic departments nationwide. The Division III Administrative Committee had been meeting for months prior while monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was not out of the blue,” Bell said. “I was obviously disappointed for the student-athletes, but I understood the decision.”

Earlier this winter, Division III sent a declaration to all members to weigh the number of participants in each sport. Every single sport failed to meet the threshold of either 60% or 70%. 

Sophomore wrestler Colton Kinnison was upset at the decision. This cancelation makes it the second consecutive season without the national tournament.

“We work out butts off to train for March, and it’s been taken away for a second time,” Kinnison said. “The NCAA is not realizing what kind of impact this has on their division III athletes and how upsetting it is.”

Division III wrestling had a participation rate of 61.8%, which was the highest participation of any sport, but it still failed to meet the 70% threshold set by the NCAA. 

Senior women’s basketball student-athlete Jenna Taylor believes that all NCAA teams deserve equal opportunities to compete for championships.

“The fact that Division I and II teams are able to still have their championships, and we can’t, was kind of upsetting,” Taylor said.

Despite the disappointment, both athletes are focused on the road ahead of their respective teams. 

“No matter what has happened, all winter sports athletes need to control what they can control,” Kinnison said. 

For now, Simpson and the American Rivers Conference are looking at alternatives to substitute the national championships, but there hasn’t been any traction. 

“We’re talking about all those (possible substitutions) right now and what you have to remember is you can’t put each sport in a vacuum,” Bell said. “Because there’s overlap, there are other sports going on.”

As of right now, the A-R-C Tournament will be the end of the season for all of Simpson’s winter sports teams. Conference championships are always an exciting part of the season, but they will be enhanced this year.

“It always meant a lot but I think when you don’t have the next step beyond that, then it heightens the importance,” Bell said.

Men’s and women’s swimming is not an A-R-C sponsored sport. Instead, they will compete in the Liberal Arts Championship on Feb. 18 through Feb. 20. Wrestling doesn’t have a conference tournament scheduled at the moment.

The first A-R-C Tournament is scheduled for March 1 for both men’s and women’s basketball. Meanwhile, men’s and women’s track and field are scheduled to compete on March 5.  

“I try to focus on the rest of the season, controlling what we can control and winning the conference championship,” Taylor said.

Right now, that’s the highest honor any team can achieve.