BIG EAST cancels 2020 fall sports

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Al McGuire Center (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

Fall sports will not be held this semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a statement released Wednesday by the BIG EAST.

Sports affected include men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, and men’s and women’s cross country. Golf, tennis and lacrosse’s fall competition seasons will also not be held.

The conference said it will consider moving fall sports to spring 2021. Decisions for basketball and other spring sports are unaffected at this time and will be made later.

“This very difficult decision came after an exhaustive review by our Presidents and Athletics Directors and followed consideration of NCAA guidance, COVID-19 case counts and trend lines nationally and in BIG EAST communities, and the many unknowns surrounding testing availability, turnaround time and travel restrictions in our 11 locales,” BIG EAST Commissioner Val Ackerman said. “We take pride in the high-level competition and experiences we provide to our fall sports student-athletes, and we share their deep disappointment that this will not be a normal year.”

The BIG EAST is allowing student-athletes to participate in activities like practices, strength and conditioning sessions, and team meetings, which are all consistent with the school’s campus policies, public health guidelines and both Conference and NCAA regulations.

“While I am sure many of us to varying degrees saw this coming, it doesn’t hurt any less to finally know with certainty what we are looking at,” cross country head coach Sean Birren said in a statement. “Regardless, I am excited to get our kids back into training and to look for opportunities to measure the success of our training throughout the fall.”

For athletic director Bill Scholl, he said that even though this decision is devastating, it was the right one.

“From the very start of this pandemic, we have vowed to have the health and safety of our student-athletes and staff drive our decision-making process.  Without question, that focused priority did, indeed, drive this ultimate decision,” Scholl said in a statement. “While this is a crushing decision for all of us, I feel particularly heartbroken for our seniors.  That being said, all of us within the Marquette administration are supportive of working towards finding a path that will allow our fall teams to compete this spring.  There are many variables in this equation, but if there is a path forward, we will work tirelessly to find it.”

Frank Pelaez, who is in his first season as head coach of the women’s soccer program, said the priority is the safety and wellbeing of the student-athletes.

“We are thankful for the things that we do have — health, our families and the individuals on this team. It is important not to dwell on what we don’t have and invest in deepening our relationships during this unprecedented time,” Pelaez said in a statement.

Head men’s soccer coach Louis Bennett said the decision has been difficult for the conference to make, but he supports it.

“I know that we’ll make this fall as safe and productive as possible for our student-athletes and staff,” Bennett said in a statement.

The statement said that the BIG EAST COVID Task Force “will continue to monitor COVID-19 conditions across the country and in BIG EAST communities.”

“Obviously we want to play volleyball, but the health and safety of our students, coaches, families and everyone around us is more important. We have a very good team with a lot of seniors that will hope to compete this spring,” head coach Ryan Theis said in a statement.

This story is still developing.

This story was written by Zoe Comerford. She can be reached at isabel.comerford@marquette.edu or on Twitter @zoe_comerford.