RICHMOND, Va. -- The Atlantic 10 Conference (A-10), which includes VCU, the University of Richmond, and George Mason University, announced Friday it would postpone its 2020 fall sports schedule due to concerns over the COVID-19 virus.
The conference hopes impacted sports like soccer, field hockey, cross country, golf, and tennis could compete again in the spring of 2021.
"While the decision to suspend our fall sports season is deeply disappointing, I fully support the action taken by the A-10 President’s Council and Athletics Directors,"University of Richmond Athletic Director John Hardt said in an email statement. "They properly prioritized the welfare of our communities above all else as it became clear that suspending; fall sports was necessary to protect the health and safety of our student-athletes, our campus, and the community.”
The league announced it would re-assess the situation in September and, if it is safe to do so, create a shortened conference-only schedule for some fall sports.
Winter sports, including basketball, are not impacted at this time.
The University of Richmond plans football in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). Yahoo! Sports reported the CAA would likely cancel its football season on Friday.
The following questions and answered were provided by the A10:
Q: Which sports are impacted by the A-10’s decision to postpone fall sport competition seasons and championships?
A: Men’s cross country, women’s cross country, field hockey, men's soccer, women's soccer, and volleyball. Additionally, the fall competition schedules for men’s swimming & diving, women’s swimming & diving, women’s rowing, men’s tennis, women’s tennis and men’s golf are also postponed, as are non-traditional competition seasons for baseball, softball and women’s lacrosse.
Q: Will the Atlantic 10 play fall sports in the spring?
A: The conference intends to play the fall sports competitive schedules and championships in the 2021 spring semester for the six sports which hold fall championships (men’s cross country, women’s cross country, field hockey, men's soccer, women's soccer, and volleyball). The league recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic will influence this decision, but is hopeful that fall sports can compete in the spring semester.
Q: Does the postponement of fall sport competitive competition schedules include men’s and women’s basketball games in November and December, or the winter sport schedules?
A: No, as a winter sport, basketball is approximately 75 days away from its first official team practice and more than three months away from a competitive contest with outside competition. Thus, the A-10 decided it was premature to make a determination on basketball competition and other winter sport schedules (indoor track and field and the winter portion of the swimming and diving schedule). The circumstances are evolving daily relating to COVID-19 protective protocols and a safe return to practice and competition. Therefore, we will study and continue learning from medical experts in addressing winter sports later this fall.
Q: Why make this decision now?
A: Relying on our A-10 Medical Advisory Committee, every national/regional indicator, medical and safety recommendation is that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to trend in the wrong direction. The basic protocols are facemask, social distancing, frequent hand washing, limited travel and avoidance of large groups. None of the aforementioned can be achieved effectively while playing competitive sports. Additionally, the challenges associated with recommended COVID-19 testing protocols, vis-a-vis the availability of tests, coupled with the responsibility of securing tests during this public health crisis, presentssignificant challenges. Thus, the presidents and athletic directors believe it is important and ethical to be realistic and honest with their campus community, student-athletes and staff, and minimize the health and legal risk in prematurely attempting to compete in the fall sport seasons. Announcing this decision now also provides clarity and transparency to all student-athletes as they continue planning their return to campus. Lastly, the membership agreed that intercollegiate athletics can be a strong community partner to our member schools in creating a safer campus environment by limiting athletic teams (and opponents) from traveling on and off campus.
Q: Why establish a “look in window”?
A: Given the ever-changing status of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is possible that the downward trajectory and status of the virus could significantly improve 60 days from now. The “potential” exists for improved testing availability and options, regional containment and/or lessons learned from other sport entities, so the A-10 wanted to be open to evaluating all circumstances two months from now. Given that our student-athletes would be on campus practicing and training under the approved safety protocols, we would consider the opportunity to return to conference play only if it was safe and approved by A-10 and institutional leadership and available medical data.
Q: Did the A-10 consider delaying the start of the fall competitive season before postponement?
A: Yes, a delay was discussed at length and with great passion. However, it was the consensus that the health risk, safety and well-being of the entire campus community and all athletic teams was far greater than traveling to and hosting competitions at this time. However, the “look-in window” scheduled for mid-September provides similar flexibility as a delay.
Q: Does the postponement apply to non-conference and conference competition?
A: The postponement applies to all competition against outside opponents, which will include conference and nonconference contests, exhibition games and scrimmages currently on a team’s schedule.
Q: Does this decision have any impact on a student-athlete’s receiving scholarships?
A: Scholarship awards are institutional decisions and currently remain unchanged.
Q: How does this decision influence the eligibility status of student-athletes in those fall sports? A: When fall sports successfully complete their competitive schedules in the spring, there will be no change to the normal progression of eligibility for student-athletes. Q: Does the decision by the A-10 impact a team's ability to practice on campus?
A: No, decisions regarding practice and other team activities will be made by each institution consistent with state and local public health guidelines, as well as campus policies.
Q: Does this decision impact the previously announced regionalized and reduced conference schedules and A-10 championship formats for Soccer, Field Hockey, and Volleyball?
A: Those schedules and formats are unchanged and will be used during spring semester if there is a competitive regular season and championship in these fall sports in the 2021 spring semester.
Q: Was the A-10 decision to postpone influenced by other Division I Conferences that have or have not suspended fall sports?
A: No, our conference has been working for months on the advice of our Medical Advisory Committee, public health experts, our campus leadership and COVID-19 protocols of the local communities. Contingency planning since May has included numerous options for fall sport student-athletes return to campus and competition. The A-10 has been in regular communication with all other Division I Conferences, however, each of our circumstances are different as it relates to sport sponsorship, geography, and membership diversity. At the end of the day, the presidents and chancellor of our membership will always make the best decisions for their campus community, and the safety, health and wellbeing of their institution and all of their constituents.
Q: What is the timeline for a 2021 spring schedule for fall sports?
A: Schedules for fall sports will be announced once the decision to hold fall sports competition during the 2021 spring semester is finalized.
Q: How will fall sports and spring sports integrate and share facilities and resources during the same season?
A: If the decision is made to allow fall sports to compete in the 2021 spring semester, the integration will take some coordination; however, our campuses are well equipped to handle the incorporation of fall sports into the spring season. Institutional administrators, coaches, facility personnel and the conference staff will work together to meet any challenges.
Q: Did the A-10 seek input from coaches on the decision to postpone?
A: When the decision was made in May to reduce the A-10 conference team schedules for fall and spring competition, the conference staff held virtual meetings with every sport head coaches committee. On those calls the coaches were tremendously supportive and understanding of the COVID-19 circumstances and the need for condensing and regionalizing their fall sport schedules for safety reasons. As a coach there is nothing more important than the safety and health of all of the student-athletes. During those calls Commissioner McGlade stated that although our hopes were high for a fall competitive schedule it was very possible that the entire fall season may be canceled. The head coaches understood and confirmed their support for the best possible decision as a conference.
Q: Does this decision impact fall sports the A-10 does not sponsor at its member institutions (i.e. football)?
A: No, those decisions will be left up to our institutions and their respective conferences for those sports. However, the league was sensitive to the dynamics that are created when an institution is in a multi-conference situation, so the A-10 has worked successfully with those A-10 members that have impacted non A-10 sports.