AC football conference schedule suspended

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
The Southern Athletic Association is suspended all conference competition for the 2020 fall semester, which affects the Austin College football team.

The Austin College football team had almost its entire 2020 schedule wiped out after the Southern Athletic Association's Presidents' Council decided to suspend all conference athletic competition through the fall season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Roos tentative schedule for the upcoming year had nine games on it and seven of them were against SAA opponents. The only two non-conference contests were at Howard Payne to open the season on September 5 and then hosting Sul Ross State on September 12 before kicking off conference action the following Saturday. There is little expectation that either of those games will be played.

"While we are disappointed, we fully support this decision as our primary focus is on 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."

AC competes as an affiliate member of the SAA for football only. Three of Austin College's fall sport programs that compete in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference — volleyball, men's and women's soccer and men's and women's cross-country — learned just hours before that they would not have a season after the SCAC Presidents Council announced competition would not occur during the 2020 fall semester.

In the spring, AC had five sports — baseball, softball, tennis, track and women’s water polo — see their seasons come to a premature end in mid-March at the start of the pandemic.

The AC men’s water polo program, 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, is the lone fall sport which has not had its season altered yet.

The SAA Presidents Council said that after meeting over the past several months to weigh options and plan for the start of the 2020-21 athletic season, this was the decision to make at this time.

"The highest priority at each institution is the health and well-being of our campus communities, student-athletes, coaches, administrators, and spectators," SAA Commissioner Jay Gardiner said. "As the pandemic evolves, the SAA will continue to monitor the situation and intends to resume fall sport competition in early 2021."

During the fall, each institution will have an opportunity to work with student-athletes for training opportunities outside a traditional season, consistent with federal and state public health authorities, the NCAA, and institutional guidelines.

The SAA said it intends to join other Division III conferences in requesting that the NCAA postpone fall championships until the spring semester of 2021.