See more of the story

St. Olaf has become the second member of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) to cancel its winter sports, announcing Thursday that men’s and women’s competition in six sports will be called off because of the pandemic.

The Oles’ decision comes three weeks after Carleton decided to cancel its winter sports. Though the MIAC has postponed all sports through the end of 2020, Commissioner Dan McKane said Thursday the league still plans to hold winter sports competition. The MIAC sponsors men’s and women’s basketball, swimming and diving, hockey and indoor track.

“MIAC member institutions are continuing efforts to plan for a winter season,” McKane said. “We had anticipated some institutions will opt out of winter sport participation and have plans to adjust schedules as they occur.”

St. Olaf’s announcement affects its men’s and women’s Alpine and Nordic skiing programs, as well as men’s and women’s teams in the four MIAC sports. In a statement, athletic director Ryan Bowles said the teams would be permitted to practice next semester, and the school would try to provide them with “the best experience possible.” Bowles added that St. Olaf has not decided whether to play spring sports, or whether to reschedule any fall or winter sports for spring 2021.

“After considering the current circumstances and predicted future circumstances of the global pandemic, we felt it was important to continue to focus on the health and safety of our entire campus community and to make the difficult decision not to compete this winter,” Bowles said. “We are extremely disappointed for our student-athletes.”

McKane, who is tracking pandemic-related winter sports cancellations in Division III, said eight of the 43 D-III conferences have chosen not to hold league competition. Other individual schools also are opting out. The most affected sports are women’s hockey (24% of teams canceling the 2020-21 season) and men’s hockey (21%).