SAC delays fall sports until Sept. 26, will play conference-only games in the fall

Football and other fall sports at UVA Wise and throughout the South Atlantic Conference have been delayed until Sept. 26 for the upcoming season.

The South Atlantic Conference is holding off the start of fall sports until Sept. 26 and is only playing within the conference.

The SAC made the announcement of its plans Friday afternoon.

“Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and in the best interest of the health, safety, and well-being of the student-athletes, coaches, administrators, fans and our campus communities, the South Atlantic Conference Presidents Council has made the decision to delay the start of all scheduled competition for the 2020 fall sports season until Sept. 26,” according to a press release from the SAC.

Virginia-Wise, Carson-Newman, Tusculum, Lincoln Memorial and Mars Hill are part of the 13-school NCAA Division II conference.

Fall sports in the SAC include football, volleyball, cross country, soccer and field hockey.

The press release also said the fall sports will play a conference-only schedule.

“Teams can begin preseason practice, per NCAA bylaws, for these sports during the fall 2020 semester, provided health and safety conditions allow these activities,” according to the release.

The move to play conference-only games in the fall does not apply to sports in the winter and spring seasons.

“The decision to delay the fall sports season was not an easy one to make,” said Dr. Maurice Scherrens of Newberry and chair of the SAC Presidents Council. “However, we feel this is the best course of action as it allows our institutions time to develop best practices for a safe return to campus and competition for our student-athletes. We will continue to assess the ever-changing situation, as we are dedicated to ensuring our student-athletes the opportunity to return to campus in the safest environment possible.”

UVA Wise athletic director Kendall Rainey said the delay will give student-athletes and the student bodies on SAC campuses a chance to become more familiar with the changes the 2020-21 school year will bring.

“The safety of our student-athletes, staff and campus communities is paramount, and fulfilling the mission of providing an in-person academic experience is the top priority,” Rainey said in a statement released Friday. “UVA Wise and the SAC want to ensure all student-athletes can return to campus and get acclimated to the course schedule and the ‘new normal’ campus environment before adding athletic competition and travel.

“While this was a difficult decision, it is clearly the best one given the landscape of the pandemic at this time.

“I look forward to seeing our student-athletes return to Wise focused on their studies and safely preparing for the athletic seasons that lie ahead.”