Citing the well-being of student-athletes, coaches and staff, the Conference Carolinas Board of Directors opted to postpone fall sports competition for the 2020-21 fall season.
The decision affects men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball. All five sports will conduct conference-title play in 2021.
Conference Carolinas is the 15th of 23 NCAA Division II conferences nationwide to move fall sports to the spring.
“During the fall, our focus will be the health of our student-athletes, keeping them engaged with their coaches, providing opportunities for practice and skill development, and, of course, staying on top of their academics,” said Jeff Eisen, vice president athletics at the University of Mount Olive.
“Our student-athletes and coaches are resilient, and will make the most of the opportunities before them.”
Students reported to campus this past weekend.
Classes began Tuesday.
Two first-year head coaches, Emma Celentano and Jason Carlson, don’t mind the extra wait to make their respective debuts. Celentano takes over the women’s volleyball program, while Carlson will direct the men’s soccer program.
“Naturally, my girls were disappointed with the news,” Celentano said. “I think most competitors yearn for that opportunity to put on a jersey again and thus they were hungry to get back in the gym. The silver lining - they are still very much rejuvenated that we can train this fall.
“And that is also our biggest challenge as a typical fall sport we must come in hyper-motivated from a three-month summer layoff and drive through a three-month fall season.”
Celentano expects the additional training time to help team growth.
The ink had barely dried on Carlson’s contract when the virus created worldwide havoc.
He continues to have Zoom meetings with his team, but is eager for face-to-face contact.
“When we found out that we are going to able to still train this fall, I was very encouraged that we are going to be able to spend a lot of time with our guys getting to know each other,” Carlson said. “We can work through trying to find what formation(s) are going to fit us best. In addition, it will give our new players plenty of time to adjust to a new program.”
Conference Carolinas officials said that member institutions can reduce the number of contests on their regular-season schedule, which allows student-athletes to not exhaust a year of eligibility. They will be able to utilize the legislative relief provided to NCAA Division II institutions for the 2020-21 season.
League administrators stated each school has discretion over the start of their winter sports - men’s and women’s basketball, indoor track, swimming and wrestling.
Spring sports teams can practice during fall.