Cross country, soccer, volleyball start date delayed

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Courtesy of Maria Rivera

Fall sports, like soccer, will be delayed at OU until at least October 1, 2020.

Michael Pearce, Editor-in-Chief

The future of the fall sports season is still unclear with the ever-changing COVID-19 numbers in the U.S., but no matter what case numbers look in September, Golden Grizzly athletes and fans will have to wait until October at the earliest to see sports return to OU.

The Horizon League announced on Thursday, July 16 that fall competition for cross country, soccer and volleyball will be delayed until at least Thursday, Oct. 1.

“Guided by its core value of student-athlete well-being, the Horizon League Council decided on Thursday, July 16 to delay the start of fall competition for all sports (championship and non-championship) with the understanding that if competition occurs, it will not begin before Oct. 1,” the official Horizon League press release said.

The Horizon League Council is made up of all athletic directors, a representative from the faculty athletic group, a representative from the senior woman administration group and a student-athlete representative.

They decided that delaying the fall season was the best option to protect student-athletes after recent information from the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) was gathered from state and local health agencies and showed that COVID-19 numbers were trending upward.

“The Horizon Council has been meeting weekly — multiple times usually — to discuss the landscape, which started in March,” Oakland Athletic Director Steve Waterfield said. “The question was then ‘how can we have a safe fall season?’ We decided to wait it out and see what things look like as we get more information because things change so quickly.”

Right now, the plan is to play fall sports in the fall. However, that plan could change depending on the virus’ outlook.

“If we decide we can’t conduct the fall sports teams’ competition in a manner that aligns with student well-being and safety, then I think there will be a decision or timeline developed as to if fall sports will move to the spring,” Waterfield said.

The tentative Oct. 1 start date for fall competition was chosen to give student-athletes time to get back into playing shape once they return to campus in late-August or early-September.

According to the Horizon League press release, “Decisions related to training and practice will be left to members’ discretion.”

The main concern for student-athletes, coaches and administration is adhering to OU’s social distancing guidelines while still training and practicing together.

Waterfield has worked with OU administration over the past four months to determine what practicing and meeting would look like for athletes.

“It’s ultimately going to be a departmental decision that needs to be blessed and approved by the university and campus,” he said. “Since April I’ve had a group of athletic department staff members to develop Oakland University’s return to sport or resocialization of sport plans and phases.”

The fall sports season, while still up in the air, will be closely monitored by the Horizon Council.

“The Horizon League’s Council will continue to monitor developments related to COVID-19, and will evaluate fall schedules and competitions with the understanding that there may be future changes,” the press release said.

The weekly meetings of the council will determine the future of the fall sports season at OU, meaning that fans can either expect to see their teams on courts, fields and tracks — or not see them at all.