Ohio University athletic fields will be quiet this fall, after the Mid-American Conference announced a major decision on Saturday.
The MAC postponed its 2020 fall athletics season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The MAC Council of Presidents unanimously voted to suspend athletics ‘with the health and safety of its student-athletes, fellow Universities in the Mid-American Conference,’ according to press release sent out by Ohio Athletics on Saturday.
“It is the intention of the membership to provide competitive opportunities for the student athletes in these sports during the spring semester of 2021,” MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said on Saturday.
Football, volleyball, soccer, field hockey, men’s and women’s cross country and men’s and women’s golf are postponed at Ohio until the spring of 2021.
“The health and safety of our student athletes, coaches and athletics support staff remain Ohio University’s top priority in the midst of the global health crisis,” Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis said. “We are extremely proud of our student athletes and their tremendous accomplishments both in the classroom and on the field of play. We recognize the disappointment that will be felt by the Bobcat nation this fall but it is our hope that we will be able to cheer on the OHIO Bobcats in the spring if it is safe to do so.”
The Ohio University football team already had its season opener against North Carolina Central canceled due to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s decision to suspend its fall sports. That decision came down on July 16.
The rest of Ohio’s football schedule remained intact — including a Sept. 12 trip to Boston College — until Saturday’s announcement. Official practices were set to begin on Friday.
“The decision by the university presidents and our conference to postpone the fall sports competition season I am sure was a difficult one to make,” Ohio head football coach Frank Solich said in a statement on Sunday. “We applaud those that came to a conclusion that the health and safety of our student-athletes was the most important factor in moving forward without football games this fall. I know our team, coaches, and staff were all disappointed with the news but ultimately understand what needs to happen in order to overcome the pandemic our country is still facing. We believe in the ability of the young men in this program to overcome any adversity. When our team is back on the field for another gamely, we will be ready.”
The MAC had already delayed the start of fall olympic sports until Sept. 3, but now that delay will extend into the spring.
“While we are disappointed for our student-athletes, coaches, support staff and fans, we understand that today’s decision was made with the best interest of all in mind,” Ohio University Director of Athletics Julie Cromer said. “I’m extremely proud of our student-athletes for their resiliency during this difficult time. We look forward to the day when we can safely return to competition.”
The MAC is the first FBS conference to postpone its fall sports season. The Big 10 previously announced that it would only play conference games this fall, a decision that financially hurt MAC teams who relied on ‘buy’ games against Big 10 teams to help fund their athletic programs.
Finances aside, Steinbrecher said the health of the athletes was paramount in making the decision.
“This decision is grounded in the core values of the conference that priorities student-athlete well being,” Steinbrecher said. “Clearly we are charting a conservative path and it is one that has been recommended by our medical advisory group. There are simply too many unknowns for us to put our student athletes in situations that are not clearly understood.”
The MAC canceled all spring sports back in March when the COVID-19 pandemic halted sporting events across the world.
“This is simply a miserable decision,” Steinbrecher said. “It’s a decision that affects roughly 25-hundred student athletes who live for the moment to compete. Those opportunities and moments are fleeting and our student athletes have a limited window in which to showcase their talent, their passion and their drive for excellence. I am heartbroken we are in this place. However, I take comfort and I want to give assurance to our student athletes, coaches and fans that we will make very effort to provide competitive opportunities in the spring.”
No decisions have been made yet about winter sports.