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Atlantic 10, Horizon League adjust plans for pandemic

Neil Sullivan reacts to cancellation of A-10 tournament
Neil Sullivan reacts to cancellation of A-10 tournament

Dayton football still looking at conference schedule

The Atlantic 10 announced Friday all fall sports are postponed as coronavirus cases rise across the country.

For Dayton, that means volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis and women’s rowing are postponed.

The fall seasons for baseball and softball are as well.

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Since the Flyer football team is part of the Pioneer Football League, it is still set to play a schedule of conference games this fall, though a university press release indicated that will not happen “without a dramatic improvement in the COVID-19 environment.”

Two of UD’s three nonconference football games had already been canceled, and this decision eliminates a Sept. 19 home game against Robert Morris.

“We’re in two different leagues, so I can’t be ahead of the governance process of the PFL,” Dayton director of athletics Neil Sullivan said in an interview. “We’re working with our members there to reach what the PFL decisions are.”

Like Dayton, the other members of the football league are dealing with the decisions in their multi-sport leagues first.

As far as the other sports, the A-10 could reconsider its decision in mid-September if coronavirus trends have improved. At that time, a truncated conference season could be scheduled for the fall, but if that is not possible the plan is for those sports to compete in the spring.

Fall sports teams are still allowed to train and practice under approved safety protocols established between the league, schools and local health departments.

“It’s been clear all along that the return of sports was going to be based on the national trajectory of COVID-19 and unfortunately that trajectory is just not in our favor right now,” Sullivan said. “The virus kind of made the decision, if you will. We have tremendous support for our student-athletes. They come here to compete for championships in every sport and we believe in their value but right now contact sports, travel and locker rooms and all the things right now are just not conducive to public guidance and the Atlantic 10 has our full support.”

ExploreWhat will return of sports look like?

Although the college basketball season technically begins in the fall, it is not impacted by this decision.

The NCAA began to allow schools to hold voluntary workouts for basketball players in June, but Sullivan said UD plans to wait until Monday when a period allowing up to eight hours per week of mandatory activities begins.

“If it’s safe and available for our basketball teams to get some skill workouts in and get some practice in, then they’re gonna they’re gonna do that,” he said. “That’s the intention, and that’s the plan.We definitely have basketball players here (on campus), and starting next week nationally basketball workouts are allowed to begin if local conditions permit, so we’ll just take it a day at a time.

The Horizon League is taking a different approach, though one that still means Wright State athletes won’t be in action in August or September, either.

The Raiders’ league has postponed sports until at least Oct. 1, a decision intended to allow each campus to continue developing safer and reasonable protocols for a return to play.

Teams are permitted to train and practice between now and then, so they could start competition right away if it is deemed safe.

WSU director of athletics Bob Grant said many scenarios have been tossed around by HL ADs, but this one seemed like the best.

“Pushing forward didn’t make sense at all because obviously COVID-19 rates have gone the wrong direction very recently,” he said. “Canceling completely nobody wants to do, and punting until the spring, it’s too early to do that because if you’re going to do that you’ve got to make sure everybody does that so you can have spring championships and the NCAA sort of blesses that.

“This just gives us more runway and more time to make an informed decision knowing that it changes seemingly every hour.”

WSU athletic director Bob Grant, 2016.
WSU athletic director Bob Grant, 2016.

For WSU, the sports impacted by the move are cross country, golf and soccer.

Whether or not a truncated fall season or full spring season is preferable for the schools or the athletes remains to be seen.

“The Horizon League’s Council will continue to monitor developments related to COVID-19 and will evaluate fall schedules and competitions with the understanding that there may be future changes,” the league said in a statement. “The council will continue to be guided by our top priority: the health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, and staff.”

Wright State announced late Friday the men’s basketball team will begin staggered workouts Tuesday.