Fall sports at four Texas Baptist schools delayed until spring

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Due to COVID-19, fall sports will be delayed until the spring semester at four NCAA Division III universities affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

The American Southwest Conference Council of Presidents announced July 24 the decision to delay conference-scheduled competition and championship events for fall sports, including football, soccer, volleyball and cross country.

Texas Baptist schools affected are East Texas Baptist University, Hardin-Simmons University, Howard Payne University and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.

“In the midst of much uncertainty with recent COVID-19 spikes in our state and region, coupled with last week’s rigorous safety protocols released by the NCAA, which few DIII institutions can afford, the ASC presidents believe this is the best course of action at this time,” said UMHB President Randy O’Rear.

NCAA  issues updated safety protocols

The NCAA released its protocols—“Resocialization of Collegiate Sport: Developing Standards for Practice and Competition”—on July 16. Its recommendations include daily self-health checks, use of face coverings and social distancing, and testing for COVID-19 and results within 72 hours of competition for high-contact-risk sports.

Universities in the American Southwest Conference will be allowed to schedule organized team activities—workouts, practices and strength and conditioning training—at their own discretion and within local, county, state and NCAA health and safety guidelines.

“The action to move fall sports to the spring semester was a difficult decision, but the wisest course to ensure the health and well-being of our ETBU student-athletes and their fellow classmates, while providing our student-athletes the opportunity to prepare and practice this fall in preparation for spring competition,” said Ryan Erwin, ETBU vice president for student engagement and athletics.

Teams will play 50 percent of their normal schedules in the spring, and student athletes will not use a year of their eligibility during this academic year.

“Our student-athletes are eager to make the most of their time to train and compete,” said Hunter Sims, athletic director at Howard Payne. “Though the conference competition has been delayed, I’m pleased that the 50 percent plan will preserve their eligibility for the future.”

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Decisions on American Southwest Conference schedules and championships for basketball and spring sports will be determined later.

“While we are disappointed that we will not be having a full sports championship season as scheduled, we fully anticipate giving our student athletes the best experience under the modified rules and regulations of the NCAA,” said John Neese, director of athletics at Hardin-Simmons.

In other non-sports-related developments regarding COVID-19 and Texas Baptist schools:

  • Baylor University will require all students, faculty and staff to test negative for COVID-19 before they return to campus for the fall semester.
  • Because of the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, UMHB will offer most of its fall semester courses in what the university calls its CruFlex format. The approach allows students to choose to attend their classes face-to-face, watch their classes online as they are taking place, or access their courses’ videos and assignments online 24/7. Additionally, students can move between these three modalities at any time during the semester, as needed.
  • Commencement for spring semester graduates of Baptist University of the Américas will be held at 9 a.m. on Aug. 1. Attendance will be by invitation only and limited to fewer than 100 individuals. The commencement ceremony will be conducted in accordance with local and state public health and safety guidelines and according to Centers for Disease Control recommendations.

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