Atlantic 10 postpones fall sports to spring; will re-evaluate situation with 60-day window

Sports Editor
Published: 7/17/2020 12:08:04 PM

The Atlantic 10 announced on Friday that it has postponed fall sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The league intends to play fall sports during the 2021 spring semester, but has allowed for a 60-day “look-in window” to re-evaluate the fall season with the ever-changing coronavirus landscape.

“The decision is going to be literally dictated by what’s going on with the virus and pandemic,” Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade said about the window. “It allows us the opportunity to put together a conference-only competitive schedule that wouldn’t start until approximately Oct. 4 and that would be contingent on which one of these fall sports would be involved. It’s a slim opportunity but we felt we should keep it on the table.”

Since the NCAA has yet to make a decision on its fall championship tournaments, the A-10’s announcement means the conference could miss the postseason. The fate of the fall NCAA Tournaments was not a deciding factor in the Atlantic 10’s decision.

“We were going to make decision in the best interest of our schools, our students, our teams, all of our communities,” McGlade said. “Quite frankly, where it sits now, we’re postponed and if for some reason if NCAA championships are in the fall, we wouldn’t be participating in them. If the NCAA postpones championships and we all end up in the spring than we’re thrilled to death. We’re going to be out there playing and we’re going to be competing to get berths into the NCAA championship. It’s a little bit of an unknown but we did have to face that reality that that is a possibility but we still felt this was the right decision.”

Fall sports effected include: men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey, men’s and women’s cross country, and volleyball. UMass has every sport with the exception of volleyball.

“Today’s news, although difficult was made with the best interests of our (student-athlete’s) health & well-being in mind. The excitement we have to get our squad back together & see what they are capable of will have to wait a little longer, but that will not diminish our motivation to prepare,” UMass women’s soccer coach Jason Dowiak tweeted.

The fall competitive schedules for men’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, and women’s rowing will also be postponed, as will non-traditional competition seasons for baseball, softball and women’s lacrosse.

UMass typically has fall schedules for women’s tennis, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, women’s rowing, baseball, softball and women’s lacrosse.

The Atlantic 10 had already made plans for the fall. In May, the conference approved for only the 2020-21 season to regionalize and condense conference schedules by 25 percent in field hockey, volleyball, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, baseball, softball and women’s lacrosse.

Conference championships for volleyball, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, baseball, softball and women’s lacrosse were each reformatted to a four-team championship.

“That was contingency planning that hopefully can serve us and if not, we will actually move that to our spring schedule model,” McGlade said.

The Atlantic 10 is the latest Division I conference to make a decision on fall sports. The Patriot League, Ivy League and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference all announced they would cancel fall sports with the hopes of moving them to the spring.

The Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big East recently announced that they would play only conference games.

McGlade said the Atlantic 10’s decision was independent from what other conferences were doing.

“We made decisions based on what we think is in the best interest of the health and safety for our own campuses, our own region of the country and our own sports teams,” McGlade said.

On Tuesday, UMass Athletic Director Ryan Bamford said the situation across the country wasn’t helping with the decision-making process.

“Three or four weeks ago I think things were headed in the right direction then we’ve got these hiccups and spikes that really create a challenge for the collegiate model across the country,” Bamford said. “You’re only as good as where some of these underlining areas are. If there are health and safety concerns there then it really trips up a number of other decisions that each of us have to make.”

According to the A-10, if the COVID-19 risk has substantially been reduced, the reinstatement of conference competition would require medical and institutional protocols that would assure the safety of student-athletes, staff and the campus community. If COVID-19 risk levels do not improve, the teams and student-athletes will continue training and practicing while attending classes and prepare for a spring 2021 competitive schedule.

The competitive schedules for winter sports (other than swimming and diving fall contests) will remain unchanged at this time.

As a basketball-centric conference, the league determined it would be premature to make decisions on their competitive schedules at this date. The basketball season begins in November.

Many Division III conferences have canceled fall sports, including the NESCAC (Amherst College) and NEWMAC (Smith College, Mount Holyoke College).

Mike Moran can be reached at mmoran@gazettenet.com. Follow on Twitter @mikemoranDHG.

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