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Southland Conference postpones fall sports, to explore possibility of playing in spring

Southland Conference postpones fall sports, to explore possibility of playing in spring

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The Southland Conference postponed all fall sports Thursday because of concerns about the coronavirus. The league, which includes Sam Houston State, will explore the possibility of holding spring championships in volleyball, soccer and cross country.

“Protecting competitive opportunities in a safe manner for our student-athletes was paramount in the review, and a delay to the spring allows campuses and athletic departments to get a better handle on issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Houston Davis, Southland board chair and president of the University of Central Arkansas said in a statement.

The Southland will allow institutions to participate in limited fall competition. Houston Baptist said on its website it plans to honor non-conference games in football, volleyball and women’s soccer.

“Football’s road games at FBS opponents North Texas (Sept. 5), Texas Tech (Sept. 12) and Louisiana Tech (Sept. 19) remain unaffected at this time,” the post read.

Sam Houston State, which had delayed the start of fall drills scheduled for Aug. 7, will not play fall sports, including football where both its non-conference opponents — Tarleton State and Mississippi Valley State — had already canceled.

“The postponement of fall sports is a huge disappointment for our athletes, coaching staff and loyal fans,” Sam Houston State athletic director Bobby Williams said in a statement. “Unfortunately, universities and athletics conferences around the nation have varying abilities to comply with recently announced NCAA requirements to operate in a COVID-19 environment and the Southland Conference’s decision will give time for more programs to look for ways to comply. We remain grateful for the unwavering support of our Bearkat family, fans and sponsors.”

Stephen F. Austin said it will explore avenues for fall competition while respecting plans to resume competition in the spring.

“Words cannot express my disappointment, but that pales in comparison to what our student-athletes are feeling right now”, SFA athletic director Ryan Ivey said. “As with everything with COVID-19, no two days are alike. As such, we will continue to evaluate and consult with our medical team as the situation emerges, and we hope it may be possible for our student-athletes to have the opportunity to compete in some capacity. I can assure everyone that the holistic student-athlete well-being is at the center of our decision making. I am extremely proud of our student-athletes and the leadership, passion and discipline they have displayed throughout this entire pandemic. We, as a department, are more resolved than ever to do everything we can possibly do to be provide them with a great experience and the opportunity to achieve every dream that they have, on and off of their respective competition surfaces.”

The NCAA Division I council recommended Wednesday that the NCAA Division I board of governors grant student-athletes impacted by the coronavirus pandemic an extension of their five-year eligibility and an additional season of competition if they compete in 50% of less of the maximum number of competitions allowed in each sport under NCAA rules.

“The prolonged pandemic has caused and will continue to cause financial hardships for the athletics department,” Ivey said. “Now, more than ever, we need our supporters to step up and help us through this situation. Our goal is to make sure that we continue to invest in our student-athletes and not have to take away the resources they need to be successful. Any contribution to the Purple Lights Fund goes directly to help sustain the level of success our student-athletes have achieved and Lumberjack Nation has grown accustomed to.”

The Southland Conference’s other members are Abilene Christian, Incarnate Word, Lamar, McNeese State, Nicholls State, Southeastern Louisiana and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

“The [Southland Conference] board [of directors] concluded that an entire fall sports season is not likely, and that a postponement to spring can provide the important opportunities our teams annually seek,” Southland Conference commissioner Tom Burnett said. “While disappointed that we won’t be playing these sports in the Southland’s 58th year of fall competition, we look forward to a unique spring season of athletics that also includes NCAA postseason opportunities.”

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