ST. GEORGE — The Western Athletic Conference Board of Directors has announced that the conference will postpone the start of fall sports until no earlier then Sept. 10 for women’s soccer and Sept. 16 for volleyball and men’s soccer. The decision came almost two weeks after Dixie State University made it’s official jump into Division I and the WAC on July 2.
“Two WAC committees, the Medical Advisory Group and the Contingency Planning Group, have been meeting on a weekly basis to ensure the safest manner for member institutions to conduct to fall competition,” WAC Commissioner Jeff Hurd said in a press release. “Their recommendations, which include a strong testing policy as well as a requirement for each of our institutions to put together an Emergency Action Plan, were reviewed and approved by the Board.”
Dixie State Athletic Director Jason Boothe said that the WAC has been holding weekly discussions on the topic and monitoring the pandemic for the entire conference. He also said that the leadership in the conference has been a great help in leading member schools through the current situation.
Boothe said the safety of student athletes at Dixie State is priority No. 1, mentioning that the school has procedures and guidelines in place for the athletes’ safe return.
“Any amount of games we play or don’t play pale in comparison to their health,” Boothe said. “We certainly don’t want to jeopardize that in any way and we’ve got what we think are great policies and procedures to help them stay healthy and safe, but we really don’t know, if we were able to have some seasons, how effective they’ll be. We think they’ll be fine, but it’s not really a matter of if someone gets the virus — it’s when and then what we do.”
The WAC’s decision gives the conference and their member schools about two more weeks to feel out how the pandemic is shaping up. The postponement of the season is also meant to allow for athletes and teams to safely return to training and competition after the cancellation of spring activities and summer workouts.
The Trailblazers volleyball team was originally slated to start their season on Aug. 28, while men’s and women’s soccer were going to host exhibitions against Snow College on Aug. 15.
“We’re not losing anything by waiting a few more weeks or maybe even days. It’s dependent on what the rest of the country does,” Boothe said. “We’re certainly trying to squeeze every possible opportunity we may have of having a fall sports season.”
Boothe said the situation is obviously not ideal but every school in the country is in the same predicament. For other schools, the pandemic has hit harder then others. Stanford had to discontinue 11 of their sports programs, while locally, Southern Utah University had to discontinue their men’s and women’s tennis teams.
Meanwhile, the Trailblazers athletic department has not seen any layoffs, salary cuts or furloughs due to the pandemic, Boothe said, adding that they are fortunate and ready to face the challenges ahead.
The one question that remains is the football season. Since the WAC does not sponsor the sport of football, the Trailblazers football team will begin their Division I competition as an FCS Independent team. With no affiliation to the WAC, the football season is scheduled to go on as planned, but Boothe said he would be surprised if there were no changes made.
“I would be shocked if we were able to play the schedule as-is, but I hope so,” Boothe said. “I’m sure there will be some adjusting over the next week or two.”
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