SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) – The Southern Conference (SoCon) announced Thursday that they would be postponing all fall sports league competition due to COVID-19.
According to a news release from Furman University, the SoCon presidents’ decision “effectively ends all fall conference competition for Furman’s football, men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, and men’s and women’s cross country programs. The league expressed hope for the revival of traditional fall sports in the spring should the health and safety climate improve.”
The league’s action covered the termination of fall conference competition, but according to the release it did leave open the option for individual institutions to schedule “non-conference competition, including football.”
“The college presidents in the Southern Conference were thoughtful in this discussion, with the health and safety of students, staff and fans as their priority, and did not make this decision lightly,” Furman President Dr. Elizabeth Davis said. “As is the case with all of our institutions, athletics plays an important role for our students, campus community and alumni, and we are all disappointed that we are not able to have a fall season as we had hoped. Furman’s student-athletes, coaches and athletics staff all worked very hard to prepare for the fall season, and I am so very grateful to them for their dedication. We all look forward to Furman Athletics returning as soon as possible and to the bright and exciting future ahead.”
According to the release, the last season Furman did not compete in football was in 1945, the final year of World War II.
“Over the past several months, Furman Athletics has been focused solely on our community’s health and safety, our students’ return to campus for classes, and the resumption of athletics competition,” Furman Director of Athletics Jason Donnelly said. “I appreciate the unwavering support of our administration, sports medicine staff, and facilities staff who worked hard to put us in a position to potentially play this fall. While we are disappointed that we will not be able to compete as a conference, we respect the league’s decision and will thoroughly evaluate all of our options moving forward. We look forward to the Paladins representing Furman at our next possible opportunity and will continue to support our outstanding student-athletes in every possible way. I am confident they will emerge stronger than ever.”
Wofford College President Dr. Nayef Samhat said in a news release from the college on Thursday that they stand by the decision by SoCon officials.
“The safety and health risks presented by COVID-19 challenge our ability to safely compete in sports this fall,” Samhat said. “Intercollegiate athletics are an integral part of the Wofford College experience and will be missed on our campus this fall. We look forward to returning to the field of play when it can be done in a safe and responsible manner for our student-athletes, coaches and fans.”
“This decision was a difficult one to make,” Wofford College director of athletics Richard Johnson said. “The primary focus of the decision was the health and well-being of our student-athletes. While it will be a different fall without sports on campus, our coaches and staff will remain focused on providing the best experience possible for our student-athletes.”
The SoCon is among the last on the FCS level to announce its fall plans.
A meeting of its athletic directors to discuss the path forward for this fall was held Wednesday night and the conference’s presidents made the final decision Thursday afternoon.
“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. 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.”