AAC to Delay Olympic Fall Sports Until September, Football Decision Soon

The American Athletic Conference will delay the Olympic fall sports season until at least Sept. 1.

In a press release circulated on Wednesday afternoon, the conference announced that men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball and cross country will not play any non-conference or exhibition games that were scheduled for August. Individual institutions will have the option to decide on how to handle missed games; either cancel or reschedule.

“The decision allows member institutions additional time to implement protocols for a safe return to competition for student-athletes, coaches, and staff members,” the press release states.

The announcement is in line with the plan the AAC has put forth in dealing with the coronavirus. Commissioner Mike Aresco noted in an interview last week with The Daily Campus that the conference would prefer to delay the season rather than cancel games outright. The delay, he said, would give his staff until August to assess the viability of a fall season. At that point, the conference would make a more long-term choice.

Aresco also brought up the unique challenges for Olympic sports as compared with football and even basketball. Travel, with the geographically diverse conference, is a challenge for both non-conference and conference games. Olympic sports fly on commercial airlines in the conference, exposing the athletes to a greater degree to the virus. Football and basketball teams fly on chartered planes.

“We charter in football and basketball. We don’t in the other sports. We are going to have to look at the safety of travel,” Aresco said in a phone interview. “We have a fairly far-flung conference, but so do other conferences. But we are absolutely evaluating that.”

SMU men’s and women’s soccer have not released a schedule for 2020 to this date. Women’s soccer head coach Chris Petrucelli confirmed earlier in the month that Boston University had already canceled a non-conference game on June 22.

“The season is changing rapidly. People changing games, canceling games… [Some of our conference games] are looking a little bit iffy at this point. The travel, for example we have to go to Temple. I’m not sure Philadelphia is totally open at this point,” Petrucelli said in late June. “… What we know right now might be totally different next week than what it is today.”

Based on last season’s schedule, the men’s soccer team played just one game in August. The women’s soccer team played four games before Sept. 1 last year.

Volleyball also has not released a schedule for the upcoming season. Based on last season’s schedule, it would be the sport with the most to lose from this move by the AAC. The program played in an exhibition game and hosted a tournament in the month of August in 2019.

Cross country is the lone fall sport to release a partial schedule. It currently still lists a meet at Baylor on Sept. 2 on its slate for 2020.

Aresco indicated last week that football would have its decision by the end of July. Delaying the season appears, based on the Aresco’s decision to “buy time,” to be the likely outcome of that announcement.