BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. — The Mountain East Conference Board of Directors has decided to postpone all fall sports seasons to the spring semester in 2021. It was one of several board resolutions following last week’s announcement from the NCAA Board of Governors regarding additional requirements and the cancellation of 2020 NCAA Division II Fall Championships due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The board also approved a reduced schedule model for fall sports that will shift to spring 2021 (football, women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer, and men’s and women’s cross country), that includes a conference championship, without participants exhausting a year of eligibility utilizing the legislative relief provided to NCAA Division II institutions for the 2020-21 season. Conference championships will be awarded even though no NCAA championships will take place.
“We still have to work through the dates and we still have to work through the logistics of trying to play all our fall sports when we would normally play our winter and spring sports,” said MEC Commissioner Reid Amos. “At the Division II level, we have some human resources limitations. We have small staffs. So we have to find a way to conduct these sports in a very compressed period of time.”
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Additionally, the board approved several other recommendations from the league’s Committee of Athletics Administrators:
• Suspend competition for winter sports until no earlier than November 1, 2020.
• Suspend all competition in all sports indefinitely, with MEC board review by no later than Oct. 15, 2020.
• Suspend the indoor track and field championship for the 2020-21 season.
• All countable athletically-related activities (CARA), excluding the restrictions regarding outside competition, for all MEC sports are permissible (as allowed under NCAA rules and Board of Governors requirements) at the discretion of each MEC member institution.
Under these recommendations, it could be possible for the men’s and women’s basketball seasons to begin on time in November.
The MEC held out hope that the fall sport seasons could be played after a delayed start. But that option was effectively taken away under recent NCAA guidance.
“Ten of our institutions are in West Virginia and West Virginia is one of the least impacted areas in the country in regards to the spread of COVID-19. Frostburg State is in western Maryland and that county is not as impacted as many areas in the country. We felt very confident with our plans that we developed after days after days of meetings.
“But at the point that the NCAA Board of Governors turned the NCAA Sport Science guidelines into requirements six days ago, we were then subject to the same guidelines meant to comprise all fifty states. We are now being treated in the same fashion as Florida is being treated.”
The Mountain East has traditionally conducted its men’s and women’s golf conference championship in the fall, but the sport is classified by the NCAA as a spring sport, and thus will have a delayed conference championship in addition to NCAA postseason opportunities in the spring semester.
“I pledged to our board, administrators, athletics staffs, and most importantly to our student-athletes that we would exhaust every opportunity to stage competition this fall, and I am confident that is collectively what we have done within the MEC,” Amos said. “Present public health challenges, combined with the new mandates put forth by the NCAA last week, create too great of a challenge on too short of a timeline to be able to conduct meaningful competition for our fall sports.
“We are tremendously disappointed for our student-athletes, and we recognize the gravity that comes with these decisions,” Amos continued. “We now turn our efforts to keeping our student-athletes engaged with their coaches and teammates this fall, continuing to develop our return to play protocols, creating new schedules for delayed sports, and preparing for our 21 championship events now slated for the winter and spring. We will continue our commitment to providing a meaningful athletics experience for all of our student-athletes and crowning MEC champions during the 2020-21 academic year.”