Peach Belt to have limited season for fall sports; volleyball, soccer pushed to spring

Augusta University men's golf coach Jack O'Keefe led his squad to the MEAC Tournament title for the fifth year in a row this spring. The Peach Belt Conference will allow for a limited fall season for cross country, tennis and golf while delaying volleyball and soccer to spring of 2021. (MEAC/Photo by Stephen B. Morton)

The Peach Belt Conference Board of Directors on Friday announced it will allow for a limited fall season for cross country, tennis and golf while delaying volleyball and soccer to spring of 2021. The Board’s decisions come following the NCAA Board of Governors additional requirements and the cancellation of the 2020 DII fall championships as the results of the COVID-19 pandemic.

All intercollegiate sports can begin countable related athletic activity (CARA), pursuant to applicable NCAA rules. Each PBC institution will have the autonomy to decide whether they wish to engage in CARA this fall for sports in their non-championship segment.

Cross country, golf and tennis competition for those institutions that can meet the Resocialization of Sports guidelines can begin Oct. 1.

“The Peach Belt Board of Directors are working to balance our desire to provide student-athletes with opportunities to compete in low-contact sports, and our desire to do all in our power to provide a safe environment and to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” said Dr. Sandra Jordan, Chancellor of USC Aiken and president of the PBC Board of Directors. “Each institutional leader in our conference is well aware of both the risks and opportunities during these unprecedented times, and will continue to respond to the NCAA requirements and national best practices as we make decisions.”

Men’s and women’s cross country will run three regular-season meets followed by the PBC Championship in late November. The date and location of the conference championship will be announced later.

Augusta University men’s and women’s cross country coach Adam Ward said he anticipates competing in at least two meets and the conference championship, but said there is a lot be worked out and determined.

“Part of a season is better than nothing, but our men and women wanted to compete at NCAAs,” Ward said. “Lots of things to consider and figure out for next year for sure. Who’s hosting meets? Where and exactly when is conference? What other limitations will be in place we aren’t aware of yet coming from the board?”

PBC commissioner David Brunk said the board feels confident they can conduct some low-contact sports such as cross country, golf and tennis this fall given the lower risk of exposure of those sports and the desire to engage our student-athletes in competition. Brunk did stress they are dedicated to following NCAA, CDC, federal, state and local government guidelines while monitoring the latest developments regarding COVID-19.

All PBC teams who choose to compete this fall will be required to follow the directives set forth by the NCAA Board of Governors, which address the risk of transmission of COVID-19, mitigating risks with face coverings and social distancing, an emphasis on outdoor training and strategies for transition periods and return to activity. Periodic testing of student-athletes will be required, the frequency of which is determined by the risk factors of the sports they play.

Ward said getting back into a routine and keeping the team excited about having a season will be one of the biggest challenges moving forward.

“Everyone has gotten so used to doing things whenever and changing that routine midstream will be a challenge for sure,” Ward said. “The back and forth over weeks has taken its toll on these young men and women who have had no say in the matter. Outside of that, limits in practice time and potential limited competition opportunities could be another. We only know of one team officially hosting a meet within our window. I know we cannot host anything because it takes a lot of time and planning to host a quality cross county meet. And given the new guidelines, I would need even more time than I do now. So, knowing where we are traveling and how we get there, etc., will be my priority after getting my student athletes back up and ‘running.'”

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