• 72°

USA South postpones fall sports to spring; Pfeiffer University responds

Pfeiffer President Dr. Scott Bullard posted a statement online Tuesday responding to the USA South Conference decision to postpone all fall sports competitions to the spring.

USA South announced Tuesday the postponement of football, men’s and women’s soccer and cross country, along with volleyball. All will be played in the spring 2021 semester. The statement said the postponement came due to “several factors, including the recent rise in positive COVID-19 cases throughout the USA South’s geographical footprint. Other major factors include the availability, cost and feasibility of adequate and consistent testing for student athletes.”

“While our member institutions maintain the freedom to address athletics as they see best on their individual campuses this fall, the NCAA recommendations especially related to testing that came out recently were a real game changer for our 18 conference schools collectively,” Dr. Tom Hart, USA South commissioner, said in a statement. “We will begin work immediately to develop a strategic plan that allows for fall conference sports competition to return in some capacity in the spring provided public health conditions improve in the coming months.”

Winter sports such as men’s and women’s basketball are not included in the postponement. Golf and tennis teams, which do not formally play in the fall, may continue as per decisions from each school. Schools may practice in all sports during the fall per a recent NCAA ruling. Any games played would not be considered “conference” games.

Student-athletes will not lose a year of eligibility if practicing or if a team can complete 50 percent of less of the sport’s maximum contests due to the pandemic, per an NCAA blanket waiver.

The USA South Conference statement read in part the conference wants to play as many contests as possible in the spring with the impacted sports. As far as NCAA Div. III championships, the NCAA Board of Governors is considering the matter but fielded a recommendation from the Div. III Management Council to cancel fall championships.

In response, Bullard issued a statement regarding the USA South’s decision.

“While we know some of you will be disappointed in our conference’s ruling, we want you to know that we believe that in many ways this is an opportunity,” Bullard said. “In 2020, though we are saddened and frustrated by many aspects of COVID-19, some opportunities have become apparent, too, and one of them is your opportunity for you to work out with your teammates while also spending a larger percentage of your time developing relationships and developing as a student. Typically, freshman student-athletes who participate in fall sports have less time to adjust to the rigors of college than do their counterparts in winter and spring sports. This fall, however, we believe you will have the opportunity to have an ideal blend of time for growth in the area of academics, growth in the technical areas of your individual sports, and growth in the area of strength and conditioning — all while staying within guidelines provided to us by the NCAA, state officials and even national entities such as the CDC.

“As a part of the USA South Conference and the broader NCAA community, Pfeiffer supports these steps to protect our campus communities while fully encouraging our student-athletes to continue progressing toward graduation. The USA South intends to develop a plan to play as many contests as possible within the spring semester and conduct championship competition.”

Regarding eligibility, practicing or playing non-conference game, Bullard said Pfeiffer Athletics “is working to determine our best course of action. We want you to work out with your team, become stronger in the weight room, and continue to build your endurance — as we develop our plan to help you to continue to grow in a way that is safe, we will continue to communicate as information becomes available.”

“With newly granted official NCAA Division III status, Pfeiffer University holds firm to the D-III philosophy that places ‘the highest priority on the overall quality of the educational experience and the successful completion of all students’ academic programs.’ Currently, your professors, in their offseason, are preparing for your return to the classroom,” Bullard added. “Like your professors, take a moment to contemplate what this semester may provide you as you will be able to engage fully in your academics, preparing your mind and body for a return to what will be intense athletic competition in the spring.”

Bullard in the statement said the staff at Pfeiffer “could not be more excited to see you in August. Together, we are not only going to survive this period of our history, we are going to emerge from this as better students, stronger athletes, and more mature and tested citizens.”

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

email author More by Charles