The Sylva Herald, written by Carey Phillips

The Southern Conference joined most others across the nation last Thursday when the Council of Presidents announced the league will not have fall conference competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conference hopes to move the regular season and fall sports championships to the spring semester.

Western Carolina’s fall sports include football, men’s and women’s cross country, women’s soccer and volleyball.

Non-conference games are still allowed. WCU will make an announcement later this week regarding any potential games for the Catamounts.

Practice and competition for some sports that have their championships in the winter/spring but traditionally have fall practice and competitions (men’s and women’s golf, women’s tennis, baseball and softball) will be determined by each institution.

“This decision was made with extensive evaluation and conversation,” Southern Conference Commissioner Jim Schaus said. “Ultimately, we felt it necessary to ensure the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches and staff. This decision was also supported by the conference’s medical advisory committee.

“I am greatly saddened to not be able to conduct our fall conference competition,” he added. “We know what this means to our student-athletes, coaches, staff and loyal fans, but safety must come first. We are still hopeful that we can have these sports successfully compete in the spring. We will continue to daily monitor the COVID-19 situation in order to make prudent and necessary decisions regarding athletic practice and competition in the future.”

“With new information being provided nearly every day over the past several weeks, we wanted to be patient in our decision making and give our student-athletes every opportunity to do what they love,” WCU Athletic Director Alex Gary said. “At the end of the day, there were too many variables that could negatively affect the health and welfare of our student-athletes. Not playing a full fall sports season at this point may be the best way to remove many of those variables.”

All WCU student-athletes on scholarship will remain on scholarship.

COVID-19 testing protocols outlined by the NCAA will be strictly followed for any out-of-season practices that may take place this semester.

Access to department facilities, locker rooms, athletic performance and sports medicine, and student-athlete support service areas will continue to be available under the guidelines and protocols that are in place that include daily screening to access facilities.

Information for football season ticket holders will be forthcoming.

“We appreciate the continued support and understanding of our fans, and we look forward to responsibly resuming competition in collegiate athletics,” Gary said.