Coronavirus Update: Fall Sports

Written by James Upchurch

The Appalachian Athletic Conference (AAC) Council of Presidents today (Monday, Aug. 3) announced that we intend to begin fall competition for the sports of men’s and women’s cross country, volleyball, and men’s and women’s soccer on Sept. 15, 2020.

It is the AAC’s intention to play conference-only games in the fall, and that the regularly scheduled conference championships will be completed as scheduled in the fall. Championship dates may change if needed to accommodate the conference-only schedules.

No outside competition in any sport will be permitted before Sept. 15 to include scrimmages and exhibition games. Inter-squad scrimmages are permitted. Member institutions may schedule non-conference games in the spring as desired up to the maximum allowable by the NAIA. Our member schools will provide non-conference competition in the Spring for those AAC teams selected for the NAIA national tournaments if needed.

As a result of the recent decision by the full NAIA Council of Presidents to allow conferences to determine their own testing protocols, the AAC will not require preparticipation COVID-19 testing for all student-athletes. Each member institution may establish its own testing requirements consistent with local and state guidelines and policies. However, should a student-athlete present with symptoms Conference and institution policies will be followed.

The AAC recognizes that as circumstances change, we will remain flexible to respond keeping the safety and well-being of our students and staff at the forefront of our decisions.

Commissioner John Sullivan added, “We want to get our students on campus and settled into the ‘new routine’ before allowing athletic competition. Delaying competition until Sept. 15 gives us that ‘breathing room’ to establish new habits to ensure that we do not have an outbreak of COVID-19. From that point on we can complete our conference-only schedule and still finish before Thanksgiving. Pushing soccer and volleyball to the Spring would over-tax our facilities with multiple sports competing for time on a single field or gymnasium. Additionally, our athletic training and sports information staffs would be overwhelmed with trying to accommodate double the normal load of student-athletes and contests. Finally, and most importantly, the academic disruption with games nearly every day is clearly undesirable.

“Since the NAIA has moved the national championships for soccer and volleyball to the spring, our national tournament qualifiers will be able to compete in non-conference contests in the spring, including conference opponents if needed, to prepare for the championships.

“We continue to monitor the federal, state, and local guidelines and policies and remain flexible to make changes as the situation develops. Our goal is to continue to provide a great student-athlete experience while maintaining the highest competitive and safety standards.”