PROVO — Keeping in line with many other leagues around the country, the West Coast Conference, which includes BYU, announced Thursday that it has postponed all conference fall competition due to the coronavirus pandemic and is looking at ways to compete in the spring.
The decision was reached by the WCC Presidents’ Council after consulting with the league’s 10 athletic directors and commissioner Gloria Nevarez over the past several weeks.
This move impacts women’s volleyball, soccer, men’s cross-country and women’s cross-country. But it doesn’t affect men’s and women’s basketball, which is scheduled to tip off in November.
The conference “remains fully committed and continues to work closely with campus leadership on plans to ensure a safe environment to conduct the 2020-21 WCC men’s and women’s basketball seasons in the winter,” according to league officials. “The conference intends to explore various models for conducting WCC competition in the fall sports of men’s and women’s cross-country, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball in the spring of 2021. The WCC strongly supports efforts to encourage the National Collegiate Athletic Association to conduct fall NCAA championships in the spring.”
While the WCC is postponing fall sports and championships, the league is allowing members to to schedule nonconference competitions in “low risk sports” this fall.
“Since returning to campus on June 1, our student-athletes, coaches and support staff have been working diligently to prepare for the fall sports seasons. We were hopeful, with carefully defined protocols, that we could compete in the fall sports,” BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic challenges faced by many of the West Coast Conference schools, particularly the schools in California that haven’t returned their student-athletes to campus, were too challenging to overcome. At this point in time, we are deeply saddened for our student-athletes and coaches in women’s volleyball, women’s soccer and men’s and women’s cross-country, whose seasons have been postponed until spring. We are also saddened for our loyal BYU fans across the country who love to watch the Cougars play; whether live in Provo, on the road, or on BYUtv. Our student-athletes will miss the fans as much as they miss them. Our main focus going forward is to help our student-athletes manage the unique challenges they are facing and prepare for the opportunity when they can return to competition. We will be back —whenever it’s possible — ready to represent our beloved Brigham Young University.
According to a release, “discussions involving various scheduling models, game day safety protocols and a timeline for WCC competition are ongoing and will be shared at the appropriate time.”
“The welfare of the great student-athletes of the West Coast Conference is and always will be the guiding principle in our discussions and why we ultimately arrived at this difficult decision,” said University of San Diego President James T. Harris, the chairman of the WCC Presidents’ Council. “The fall term for everyone associated with our member institutions will be different. We understand this and will continue to plan for a safe return to campus and a safe return to athletic competition in the WCC at the appropriate time.”
“We empathize with our student-athletes. This is a difficult decision, but it is the responsible decision based on the available information associated with conducting competition in the current environment,” Nevarez said. “WCC programs compete for national titles and we never want to take these opportunities away. However, health and safety will always be paramount in guiding our decisions. We must ensure our student-athletes have a safe environment to compete and meet the NCAA’s guidelines for resocialization of collegiate sport, along with current federal, state and local health and safety measures in place at each member institution. We are committed to providing the safeguards to conduct a men’s and women’s basketball season this winter. We want to get back to celebrating the tremendous achievements of our programs as soon as we can, but we must first ensure we can compete in a safe manner.”
Earlier this summer, the WCC announced that the league would be delaying the start of fall sports until Sept. 24 due to the pandemic.
BYU released statements from its coaches impacted by the decision to postpone fall sports until spring.
“The number one priority is the safety of our student-athletes. I know the WCC has done a lot of work and research to come to this conclusion and we honor that decision,” said men’s cross-country coach Ed Eyestone, who led the Cougars to a national championship in 2019. “With our cross-country runners, they train year-round for the opportunity to race so their day-to-day training won’t change significantly. We are hopeful that the pandemic will lessen to the extent we can return to the national championships in the winter semester. We look forward to defending our national championship at the next given opportunity.”
“I am devastated for our student-athletes and staff who have put in so much work this year in preparation for the fall season,” said women’s volleyball coach Heather Olmstead. “Although we don’t know what the future holds, I am certain our team will respond to this challenge and come out better from it. To all our fans, thank you for your amazing support—we can’t wait until we can compete in front of you again, whether it’s on the road or at home in the Smith Fieldhouse. We’ll be back stronger than before.”
“We are obviously disappointed that the fall season has been postponed. We were looking forward to the possibilities of the 2020 soccer season,” said soccer coach Jennifer Rockwood. “So much effort and preparation have been happening over the last several months as our student-athletes have been preparing for the season. Our staff and team understand the unique situation we are all facing and hope that in time competition can continue and student-athletes can get back to playing the game they love.”
“I am heartbroken for all the student-athletes whose seasons have been affected and continue to be affected by this pandemic. We have been excited to showcase the hard work and sacrifice of our current athletes along with our talented incoming class,” said women’s cross-country coach Diljeet Taylor. “BYU women’s distance is a sisterhood and we will lean on each other as we navigate this ongoing situation together. I am confident that my women will continue to train hard with goals of future success in mind. I have no doubt we will get the opportunity to chase our dreams again. These are trying times, but we believe the comeback is always greater than the setback. We look forward to reppin’ the Y. soon.”