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Sports competition in the Mountain East Conference, the NCAA Division II league sidelined since March by the COVID-19 pandemic, has set a target date for the return to competition.

The MEC Board of Directors unanimously approved plans Wednesday to conduct athletics competition in winter sports beginning no sooner than Jan. 7, 2021. The board also approved schedules for conference fall sports competing in the spring semester.

The plans are contingent upon the ability to conduct sports while adhering to state and local guidelines and COVID-19 surveillance testing at each member institution utilizing the NCAA’s guidelines, according a release from the league.

“On behalf of our board, our athletics administrators, athletic staffs, and our student-athletes, we are pleased to be taking the next steps toward returning to competition in 2021,” said MEC Commissioner Reid Amos. “However, we fully acknowledge that there are still many challenges ahead of us as we make every effort to safely navigate returning to and sustaining intercollegiate competition. I am grateful for the resolve of everyone in our league to continue to plot a viable path forward.”

The MEC said it will begin the winter sports season with no spectators. That policy will be re-evaluated by the league’s Board of Directors no earlier than Jan. 19, according to the release.

The MEC plans to start a conference-only 16-game league schedule for men’s and women’s basketball on Jan. 7 and conclude Feb. 27. The top 10 men’s and women’s teams will advance to the conference tournament, scheduled for March 3-7 at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling.

The MEC also addressed plans for other winter sports.

n Wrestling will be primarily limited to conference dual and tri-matches beginning in January with a league championship tournament on Feb. 6 at the Academic, Sports and Recreation Complex on the campus of West Liberty University.

n Men’s and women’s swimming and diving conference championships, held in conjunction with the Great Midwest Athletic Conference, have been set for March 30-April 2 at the C.T. Branin Natatorium in Canton, Ohio.

The MEC also announced updated plans for the fall sports that were pushed back by the pandemic.

Football: Teams will play a five-game divisional schedule beginning March 13. The winner from each division would play for the conference championship in mid-April.

Volleyball: Teams will be scheduled to compete in two six-team divisions with an in-division round-robin schedule that includes 10 games beginning on Feb. 2. The top four teams in each division advance to tournament play. The quarterfinal round will be played at campus sites, and the advancing teams will play at a single site to be determined.

Men’s and women’s cross country: The regular season is scheduled to start Feb. 13 and conclude with the conference championship on March 20.

Men’s soccer: The schedule will call for an eight-game, single-round-robin format beginning no earlier than Feb. 19. The top four teams will advance to the MEC tournament slated for April 21-25 at campus sites.

Women’s soccer: The women’s season will also consist of an eight-game schedule, beginning no earlier than Feb. 26. The 12 teams will be divided into three four-team divisions and play a double-round-robin schedule within the division, and then have two additional non-division opponents. The top two teams in each division will advance to the MEC tournament that will begin the week of April 19.

Men’s and women’s golf: The MEC golf championship, traditionally held in the fall, shifts to April 20-22 at Avalon Lakes in Warren, Ohio.

The MEC is planning to conduct its spring seasons as scheduled in accordance with the NCAA-mandated one-year reduction of allowable contests.

Contact Nick Scala at 304-348-7947 or Follow him on Twitter @nick_scala319.