Sage basketball hopes to open conference season in March

Division III school delaying, not canceling, winter sports because of coronavirus

Photo of Mark Singelais

The Sage men’s and women’s basketball teams are planning their own type of March Madness this season.

Instead of aiming to participate in the NCAA Division III Tournament, like any normal year, the Gators hope to open their conference season in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Empire 8 Conference, which includes Sage, announced Tuesday it has approved March 1 as the tentative starting date of its men’s and women’s basketball schedule.

“It’s a great opportunity for our student-athletes to be playing again,” Sage athletic director Sandy Augstein-Collins said Wednesday.

Sage is taking a different approach than RPI and Union, also local Division III programs that canceled their winter seasons entirely.

“Just trying to buy some more time to see how (COVID) numbers fall, especially after the holidays,” she said. “Buy some more time for the vaccines to get rolled out, those kinds of things. Just buying some time to try to get to a point where our student-athletes can play again.”

Starting in March will preclude Sage from participating in the NCAA Tournament, if one is even held this winter.

“My coaches and our student-athletes understand that,” she said. “They’re willing to bypass that for the opportunity to play a full conference schedule.”

The Empire 8 plays a 16-game conference schedule that would last until the middle or end of April, Augstein-Collins said. The schedule hasn’t been announced.

She said there would probably be “very few” nonconference games allowed, depending on travel restrictions that are in place.

Sage had limited workouts during the fall and will start practicing again around the time the spring semester starts Jan. 25.

Sage men’s basketball coach Brian Barnes, a UAlbany alumnus, said he was grateful to the school’s administration for making a season a possibility. He said his players were also appreciative.

“They were excited,” he said. “They were hopeful. We all were hopeful. We wanted to make sure this is something we could do safely, we could do responsibly with the additional time."

The Empire 8 also plans to resume competition with its other winter sports, track and field and swimming and diving. The Empire hasn't finalized championship dates for those sports.

Sage sponors men's and women's track and field. • 518-454-5509 • @MarkSingelais