By Marty Gordon
The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), the Southeastern Conference (SEC) and the Big 12 are all going out on their own and announcing they will play football this fall. Others like the Big 10 and PAC-12 will look to the spring.
In a statement on Wednesday, the ACC said it will continue to make decisions based on medical advice inclusive to their medical advisory group and local and state health guidelines, and do so in a way that appropriately coincides with their universities’ academic missions.
“The safety of our students, staff and overall campus communities will always be our top priority, and we are pleased with the protocols being administered on our 15 campuses,” the ACC said. “We will continue to follow our process that has been in place for months and has served us well. We understand the need to stay flexible and be prepared to adjust as medical information and the landscape evolves.”
Dr. Cameron Wolfe, a Duke infectious disease specialist who is the chair of the ACC medical advisory group, believes the fall season can be played safely. Dr Wolfe has said doctors have learned enough over the past six months to manage the risk.
He admits there is a risk involved with COVID-19, but two teams can meet safely on the field.
“Will it be tough? Yes. Will it be expensive and hard and lots of work? For sure,” Wolfe told the media this week.
“But I do believe you can sufficiently mitigate the risk of bringing COVID-19 onto the football field or into the training room at a level that’s no different than living as a student on campus,” he said.
The ACC’s move comes two days after the Big Ten Conference announced the postponement of the 2020-21 fall sports season.
“Our primary responsibility is to make the best possible decisions in the interest of our students, faculty and staff,” said Morton Schapiro, President of Northwestern University and the chair of the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors.
“The mental and physical health and welfare of our student-athletes has been at the center of every decision we have made regarding the ability to proceed forward,” said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren. “As time progressed and after hours of discussion with our Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee, it became abundantly clear that there was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks to allow our student-athletes to compete this fall.
“We know how significant the student-athlete experience can be in shaping the future of the talented young women and men who compete in the Big Ten Conference,” Warren said. “Although that knowledge made this a painstaking decision, it did not make it difficult. While I know our decision today will be disappointing in many ways for our thousands of student-athletes and their families, I am heartened and inspired by their resilience, their insightful and discerning thoughts, and their participation through our conversations to this point. Everyone associated with the Big Ten Conference and its member institutions is committed to getting everyone back to competition as soon as it is safe to do so.”
The SEC and the Big 12 said they would follow the ACC’s lead.
Meanwhile, there will be no fall sports in the Big South Conference this year.
With the health and well-being of its student-athletes as its top priority, the Big South Conference announced Wednesday it is delaying its fall sports seasons with the intent of playing in the spring. This includes the sports of men’s and women’s cross country, football, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball. Fall competitions in the sports of men’s and women’s golf and men’s and women’s tennis and out–of–season competitions in spring sports have been suspended as well.
“We are all broken-hearted that we will not be able to provide competitive opportunities for Big South student-athletes this fall,” commented league Commissioner Kyle Kallander. “However, the path forward must protect the health and safety of our student-athletes, and some of the current trends and unknowns with COVID-19 have made that a huge challenge. Our intention is to shift these fall seasons to the spring as we would like nothing more than to crown Big South champions in all 19 of our sports this year.”
Big South member institutions may continue with permissible athletics activities as defined by NCAA regulations and with the exception of fall sports competition, at their own discretion and in accordance with applicable local and state regulations and procedures.
The Big South decision will also put both men’s and women’s basketball on hold until January. The teams can practice no earlier than mid-December.