Maryville College and its fellow USA South Athletic Conference institutions on Tuesday finally got some answers for how the league will proceed with sports this fall as the country continues to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Conference schedules in each sport have been adjusted to division-only play with the possible implementation of neutral sites, thus eliminating the need for overnight travel.
“These implementations are rooted in assuring the health and safety of its student-athletes while still supplying as many opportunities as possible to participate in a positive collegiate athletic experience,” the conference stated in a release. “The conference will continue to discuss pathways to safely return to play, which include guidelines for resocialization, screening/testing, visiting teams, spectators and more.”
In football, conference teams will be split into two four-team divisions and will play home-and-home series against the other three teams in its division.
Maryville has been drawn into a division with Brevard, Huntingdon and LaGrange. The other division is comprised of Averett, North Carolina Wesleyan, Methodist and Greensboro.
The winner of each division will face off in a conference championship game.
Teams in all sports will be allowed to schedule non-conference games. Maryville athletic director Kandis Schram said all of the Scots’ programs plan to do that to the extent they can based on following health guidelines and the availability of teams in other conferences. In Division III, the NCAA plans to hold its championship events for fall sports. Each institution has until July 29 to declare whether it will be in the pool of teams that could qualify for postseason tournaments, though that could be a fluid situation around the country depending on how specific teams are affected by the pandemic.
Schram said Maryville plans to declare for postseason eligibility, but that the pandemic has the potential to create variables beyond the school’s control over the course of time.
Schram also said Maryville is in a great spot with the options it has for COVID-19 testing and general health and well-being of its athletes because of the relationships it has forged with local medical organizations.
Tuesday’s release relieved a lot of uncertainty for USA South institutions that wanted to know how to proceed with the fall sports season.
“People have been extremely frustrated with when we are going to know something,” Schram said. “I can provide assurance that everybody has been working diligently on this. We’re just trying to give as accurate info as we can pertaining to the time frame.”