October 25, 2021

Virus pandemic wipes out Red Dragons’ ’20 season

File photo by Rich Barnes

There will not be any celebrations for SUNY Cortland football this fall as the Empire 8 fall sports season has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Empire 8 Conference’s Presidents Council has voted unanimously to postpone all fall competition in nine sports, including football, for the 2020 season due to the continued evolution of the COVID-19 virus and the challenges it provides to safe athletics competition. SUNY Cortland is an affiliate member of the league for football, and as a result of this decision the Red Dragons will not be playing any football games in the fall of 2020.

Cortland was scheduled to play six Empire 8 games this fall, and two of the Red Dragons’ scheduled non-league games versus Washington & Lee University and The College of New Jersey had already been eliminated when those schools canceled their seasons earlier this summer. Cortland was also scheduled to play non-league games at Buffalo State and at home versus Ithaca, and both of those games will no longer be played as well.

Individual Empire 8 institutions will continue to have the ability to engage in athletic-related activity this fall to provide beneficial opportunities for their student-athletes and teams in accordance with local health policy.

“Although we all knew this was a scenario that could play out for fall sports and football, and especially with a lot of the recent announcements coming out, it still stings quite a bit to have to officially say and know that there will not be a season,” said Cortland Director of Athletics Mike Urtz. “My heart really goes out to the players and the staff. That said, we will focus on what we can do, whatever that ends up being. Ultimately, we will get as ready as we can for the future. We still plan on staying engaged and creating an opportunity for these young men to take part in some form of activity that they love to be a part of.”

Cortland finished with an 8-3 overall record and shared the Empire 8 crown with 5-1 league mark in 2019. The Red Dragons hired Curt Fitzpatrick as its head coach this past spring after Dan MacNeill’s retirement following 23 seasons. Fitzpatrick was the head coach the last seven seasons at Empire 8 member Morrisville State.

“My heart breaks for our players, especially our seniors,” said Fitzpatrick. “When we left for spring break back in March and found out that we would not be returning the rest of the spring semester our focus shifted to making the best out of any opportunities that we were presented with. Our plan was to be ready when we are called upon, and while that won’t be this fall like we had hoped, it will be sometime — and we’ll be ready. We did not blink in the face of that adversity, and we won’t now, either.”

Decisions are still forthcoming regarding the status of Cortland’s other fall sports. Seven of Cortland’s nine fall sports are members of the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) and the women’s golf team competes in the Northeast Women’s Golf Conference.