NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. (pacathletics.org)--The Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) Presidents’ Council has unanimously approved an intra-conference (conference-only) scheduling format for all varsity sports during the fall 2020 season. All fall sports except football now have a first contest date of Sept. 7, while football will begin its nine-game league schedule on Sept. 19. The decisions were made during a pair of virtual Presidents’ Council meetings in June.
“The PAC is blessed with a heritage of strong leadership collaboration coupled with a unique geographical configuration that makes athletic competition within the NCAA guidelines possible. We’re grateful for the work in establishing conference protocols that we trust will maximize opportunities to compete for our student-athletes while minimizing the risks we face together in these challenging times,” said Dr. Calvin Troup, president of Geneva College and chair of the PAC Presidents’ Council.
On May 28, the Presidents’ Council endorsed the formation of three conference-wide working groups, made up of PAC executive leaders, administrators, health care professionals and coaches, tasked with identifying and assessing potential pressure points while developing a clear, collaborative working plan for the league’s “Return to Sport” framework in response to the ongoing uncertainties related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The groups – covering the areas of Health and Safety, Scheduling and Financial Considerations – were charged to report back to the Presidents’ Council with recommended strategies, best practices and risk minimization guidelines for the upcoming academic year.
The structure and format of the intra-conference schedule model will continue to be refined over the next month, and is subject to change as the situation and conditions evolve. Today’s announcement confirms the conference’s commitment to the responsible return of varsity intercollegiate athletics, but also demonstrates the membership’s faithfulness and trust in one another, a key component of the league’s operational culture since its founding in 1955.
“The Covid-19 pandemic presents us with many unprecedented challenges as a conference. By empowering our three working groups to meet regularly to address the many complex issues we face, coupled with weekly meetings of our athletic directors, the PAC is doing everything in its power to provide a safe “Return to Sport” framework for the fall 2020 semester,” said PAC Commissioner Joe Onderko. “There are certainly aspects of this public health challenge that are clearly beyond our control. By focusing on what we can control, we hope to maximize the possibility of holding a legitimate, comprehensive fall sports season while protecting the health of our student-athletes to the best of our ability.”
Prioritizing student-athlete health, safety and well-being, while also ensuring appropriate measures are in place to address Covid-19’s impact on campus needs associated with administering athletic programs, remains the focus of all three PAC working groups. Each will continue to work on their original charges throughout the remainder of the summer and present any additional recommendations to the Presidents’ Council during its next meeting.
“The PAC’s Health and Safety Working Group has been very busy creating best practice guidelines, recommendations and suggestions for all of the members of our conference with respect to bringing not only our student-athletes, but our student bodies as a whole, back to campus in the safest and healthiest way possible,” said Mark Lesako, associate director of athletics and head athletic trainer at Washington & Jefferson College. “Obviously these are very challenging and fluid times right now, but we are doing our best to develop best practices with the information we are receiving from our federal, state and local entities. It is our hope that everyone will continue to practice good hygiene and social distancing while doing their best to stay healthy as we prepare for our return to campus.” Lesako, in his 22nd year at W&J, is serving as chair of the league’s Health and Safety Working Group.
The Presidents’ Council also unanimously approved a recommendation to provide PAC schools with the flexibility to determine their own first practice dates this fall. On June 11 the NCAA Division III Administrative Committee approved lengthening preseasons for fall sports, in response to recommendations from the Management Council’s Playing and Practice Seasons Subcommittee. There will also be an unlimited number of administrative days for schools to conduct nonathletics-related activities, or days on which schools can provide housing and meal expenses to student-athletes prior to the start of practice. Before this change, permissible start dates were based on a team’s first contest date.
On May 28 the Division III Administrative Committee, in response to recommendations from the Division III Membership and Championships Committees, approved reducing the minimum number of contests required for sports sponsorship and championship selection by 33 percent in all sports for the 2020-21 academic year.