by Paul Kennedy

Two more NCAA Division III colleges have suspended competitive sports for their 2020 fall season.

Swarthmore, whose men's soccer program dates back to 1917, suspended its fall sports -- including men's and women's soccer -- as part of its plan to limit the return to students on the campus in the fall.

Only first-year students, transfers, sophomores and resident assistants will have the option of returning to campus. Others will continue their studies remotely.

Said Swarthmore president Valerie Smith: “Unfortunately, all of the measures we’re putting in place to keep our community members safe — strict physical distancing and masking policies, limits on the number of students returning to campus, severely restricted college travel, etc. — will prohibit our participation in intercollegiate athletic competition for fall sports. Our coaches are developing meaningful and creative ways to engage with members of their teams during the course of the fall semester.”

Amherst College will not participate in fall sports. The Mammoths sponsor 25 sports, including men's and women's soccer. They won their first NCAA Division III men's title in 2015 and were runners-up in 2019. Amherst was the 2001 women's runner-up.

"Our No. 1 concern has always been, and will continue to be, your safety and long-term health," Amherst athletics director Don Faulstick said in a letter to students. "Please know that we considered every possible scenario while trying to come up with a plan that we thought was right for you, Amherst and our campus community as a whole. But given that it is impossible at this point to eliminate risk of exposure to COVID-19 even in situations without the close and sustained contact of athletic play, the decision to cancel fall competition was, in the end, the only one to make."

Three Seven Sisters schools -- Mount Holyoke, Sarah Lawrence and Wellesley -- have also cancelled fall athletics. (Sarah Lawrence is now co-ed with both men's and women's programs.)

The announcements bring to 45 the number of small colleges and community colleges that have suspended men's or women's soccer programs for the fall.

Also in Division III: The Southern California Interscholastic Athletic Conference will restrict fall athletics to only conference play while the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association approved a "predominantly conference-focused schedule" for the fall, opening on Sept. 19.