With no intramural sports, college students endure a depressing timeout

To keep in shape, the fourth-year mechanical engineering major does scissor-lift toe-touch crunches by herself on the artificial turf of Clemente Field in the Fens.

But it’s getting dark, and not just outside. For Tempest, there is an emptiness left by the cancellation of the intramural season.

“I’m very depressed,” she says.

NU's Chloe Tempest is left to exercise by herself.
NU’s Chloe Tempest is left to exercise by herself.Stan Grossfeld/ Globe Staff

Tempest is well aware that temperatures are dropping, and the November time change will usher in the dreaded 4:15 p.m. sunsets. Then the icy wind will come racing down the Mass. Pike.

“I’m just really scared that when it gets cold, I won’t be able to do anything outside,” she says. “Now I’m doing YouTube tutorials, but it’s not sports. It’s boring as hell.

“At least with intramurals, I can come and go with friends. It was safe and fun and now it’s, like, iffy. I can’t go out alone when [the sun] starts to set, so I have to adjust my workday. The worst is feeling isolated and not seeing your friends.”

But she has no issues with Northeastern.

“I think it’s better to be safe than sorry,” she says. “I have some friends down in Florida and it’s a hot mess, so I’m fine waiting it out.”

Gates are locked at BU's New Balance Field.
Gates are locked at BU’s New Balance Field.
Stan Grossfeld/ Globe Staff

Northeastern officials say they are trying to accommodate students while keeping them safe.

“We just started offering group fitness classes that are in person — and outside,” says Amy Dean, associate director of university recreation.

The gym is now open, reservations required and equipment properly spaced out. ESports have been expanded online with more than a dozen offerings, including virtual chess.

At other colleges, all classes are virtual and campuses are deserted.

At UMass-Boston, the Clark Athletic Center has been converted to a COVID-19 testing center. At the entrance, a sign reads “Please blow your nose before entering.”

The basketball court, where a young LeBron James played summer ball in 2003, is partially covered with mats leading to a white tent pitched in the corner. Outside, the softball field has weeds invading the infield.

UMass Boston's Clark Athletic Center is being used for COVID tests instead of sports competition.
UMass Boston’s Clark Athletic Center is being used for COVID tests instead of sports competition.
Stan Grossfeld/ Globe Staff

At Boston University, intramural sports used to attract 2,500-3,000 students. There were two divisions, one that was very competitive and one more recreational, with more giggles than goals.

“You’d get freshmen who would create teams from their floor,” says Ryan Parson, manager of BU intramural and club sports.

Now there are just 100 participants playing virtual eSports like Madden and NBA 2K.

Soccer goals rest unused at Northeastern.
Soccer goals rest unused at Northeastern.
Stan Grossfeld/ Globe Staff

Having no live intramural sports creates both mental and physical challenges, especially since the fitness center is currently open by appointment only.

“I think the mental is the harder part,” says Parsons. “The changes to your routine, not to be able to be on the field playing with your