There will be no fall sports this year in the Mountain East Conference.
The conference announced Thursday that all fall sports would be moved to the spring. Those sports would play for conference championships, but their seasons would be shortened so that players wouldn’t lose a year of eligibility by participating.
MEC Commissioner Reid Amos said on a Thursday evening Zoom call that the requirements that all NCAA Division II conferences would have to meet to hold sports in the fall were too much to overcome, and moving to the spring was a must.
“We felt very confident regarding the plans [the conference] developed after days and days of meetings and planning to return to competition after the pandemic,” Amos said. “On the whole, our full-time member institutions are located in areas that, overall, have managed the pandemic well and limited the spread of COVID-19 cases. We felt we built a framework where we could prioritize local and state guidance.
“But at the point that the NCAA Board of Governors turned guidance into requirements six days ago, the MEC was then subject to guidelines meant to comprise 50 states, and now requires us to be treated in the same fashion as areas that have handled the pandemic poorly. That created circumstances that, as of now, have forced us to delay.”
The previous plan had all contests in fall sports scheduled for September moved to the spring semester. Those sports would begin their seasons no earlier than Oct. 1.
With fall sports moved to spring, those sports will play a schedule half the length of their usual schedules. For instance, football teams will play a five-game slate and the sport will hold a conference championship game. That way, Amos said, those players will not exhaust a year of eligibility in the spring.
West Virginia State football coach John Pennington tweeted his support of the changes Thursday evening.
“This is definitely in the best interest of player safety and providing an opportunity for competition,” Pennington wrote. “Our student-athletes have worked incredibly hard to get to this point and if they choose to they deserve this opportunity.”
Also, all MEC sports competition has been suspended indefinitely, and the MEC Board of Directors will review that decision no later than Oct. 15. If the board decides then the sports calendar is able to restart, winter sports will begin no earlier than Nov. 1.
The MEC indoor track and field championship has been suspended for the 2020-21 season and the conference’s golf teams, which usually hold a fall conference championship, will hold that tournament in the spring, as golf actually is designated a spring sport.
All countable athletically related activities, other than the ones including outside competition, will be permissible for all MEC sports at the discretion of each conference institution.
“We are tremendously disappointed for our student-athletes, and we recognize the gravity that comes with these decisions,” Amos said. “We now turn our efforts to keeping our student-athletes engaged with their coaches and teammates this fall, continuing to develop our return to play protocols, creating new schedules for delayed sports, and preparing for our 21 championship events now slated for the winter and spring.
“We will continue our commitment to providing a meaningful athletics experience for all of our student-athletes and crowning MEC champions during the 2020-21 academic year.”