Three of Austin College's fall sports will not get to participate as normally scheduled during the first semester of the 2020-21 academic calendar after the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Presidents Council announced on Thursday that NCAA intercollegiate competition will not occur during the Fall 2020 season due to health and safety concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Roos volleyball, men's and women's cross-country and men's and women's soccer programs are the ones affected by this change. In the spring, AC had five sports — baseball, softball, tennis, track and women's water polo — see their seasons comed to a premature end in mid-March at the start of the pandemic.
"While we are disappointed, we fully support this decision as our primary focus is the safety and welfare of our student-athletes," Austin College Director of Athletics David Norman said. "We have already begun planning a safe, positive and engaging fall semester for all of our programs and are excited to welcome our teams back to campus in August."
Austin College has two other fall sports which are still scheduled to compete as normal — football, which is a part of the Southern Athletic Association, and men's water polo, which does not have a conference affiliation leading into the Collegiate Water Polo Association Division III Championships in late October and the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championships in late November.
The SCAC Presidents Council unanimously agreed that conference teams in cross country, soccer and volleyball would not engage in competition, either conference or non-conference contests, during the fall season. This also includes sports such as golf and tennis which utilize the fall for non-traditional activities.
That consensus came following discussions which included a review of public health guidance and safety standards as well as NCAA Re-socialization recommendations.
Teams will be encouraged, as health and safety conditions allow, to conduct conditioning, strength training and other practice opportunities during the fall semester.
"Collegiate athletics are key pillars of the student experience at SCAC institutions," Chair of the SCAC Presidents Council and Trinity University President Danny Anderson said. "With this decision, SCAC institutions will gradually re-socialize our sport programs to campus with the goal of safe competition and a return to regular conference play."
The conference said it is committed to exploring meaningful competitive experiences for all fall sport student-athletes, including the possibility of conducting fall sport competition and championships during the spring semester. Any decisions related to winter and spring sport competition will be made at a later date.
"Not unlike the decision we had to make this past spring, today's decision was difficult and not taken lightly," SCAC Commissioner Dwayne Hanberry said. "At the very least, it is extremely frustrating to be forced to continue the suspension of competition this fall.
"After putting together a COVID-19 Task Force made up of administrators from each member institution, we thought we had landed on a reasonable plan for re-socialization that would have allowed for measured increases of athletic activities upon the arrival of our student-athletes coming out of summer break. However, with recent spikes in cases, especially within our footprint, the decision to suspend competition for fall sports during the fall semester and allow our campuses to focus on the health and safety of all students within a structured environment became the logical outcome."