SCIAC loses Occidental football, but P-P and CMS teams here to stay, admin say

CMS and P-P football players play against each other
Both the Pomona-Pitzer and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps athletic directors say their respective football programs aren’t going anywhere. (Anna Horne • The Student Life)

After fellow SCIAC competitor Occidental College announced the discontinuation of its football program last month due to COVID-19 and years-long problems fielding a full team, 5C students were left wondering about the fate of their own teams.

But both the Pomona-Pitzer and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps athletic directors say there’s nothing to worry about. While the Battle of the Drum rivalry between the Tigers and the Sagehens might be over, sports at the Claremont Colleges aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

We have seen a lot of institutions cutting sports in the midst of COVID-19. Our institutions are committed to the co-curricular experience and there has been no conversation about cutting sports as a result of COVID-19,” P-P Athletic Director Miriam Merrill said via email.

Athletics are on similar footing on the other side of Sixth Street, according to CMS Athletic Director Erica Perkins Jasper, where CMS planning is focused on returning to play.

Our focus right now continues to be on supporting our student-athletes. We are navigating the challenges of the remote semester while working on return to practice-and-play protocol for CMS athletes should we be able to be back on campus this spring,” Jasper said via email.

SCIAC is “currently exploring scheduling options” in the face of losing a team, Executive Director Jennifer Dubow told TSL via email.

“Meetings are just beginning with the different governance groups to discuss options,” she said.

What a small student-athlete pool in an injury-prone sport could mean for CMS and P-P athletics

Occidental, a liberal arts college of about 2,000 students, had its football program plagued by years of difficulty with filling a full team, especially amid some seasons of “injury-depleted” rosters and recent “substantial financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the Occidental Athletics website.

The team was repeatedly shaken up with worries of being able to safely field a competitive team in an injury-prone sport with a relatively small student-athlete pool.

Though CMS and P-P have a larger pool of student-athletes, with over 4,500 students enrolled across the 5Cs, the schools’ athletes are just as susceptible to injury — though Merrill said this shouldn’t incite the elimination of football or any other sport.

“The concussion conversation is beyond football, and it is dangerous when it becomes so singularly focused … The rates of concussions seen in soccer, rugby, etc. are worthy of investigation as well; however, it shouldn’t be about eliminating sports. It should be about how we make them safer,” she said.

SCIAC has taken measures to prevent student-athlete injuries that subsequently affect SCIAC schools’ rosters, Dubow said.

“We have athletic departments that participate in an NCAA program for injury surveillance which provides data on all injuries. The SCIAC also limits football teams to nine games while the NCAA maximum allowed is ten games,” she said.

Dubow was not worried about any other SCIAC schools cutting programs.

“I think sport sponsorship across the SCIAC is stable and [I] don’t anticipate other cuts,” she said.

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