Kent State will not play any sports this fall season, as the Mid-American Conference became the first Division I athletics conference to completely postpone sports, following a Saturday morning vote.
With some sports set to start training camps this weekend, commissioner John Steinbecher announced in a press conference the conference Council of Presidents unanimously voted to cancel the season.
“This decision is grounded in the core values of the conference that prioritize student-athlete wellbeing,” Steinbecher said. “Clearly we are charting a conservative path, and it is one that has been recommended by our medical advisory group. There are simply too many unknowns for us to put our student-athletes in situations that are not clearly understood.”
Steinbecher said the move was guided by the advice of medical professionals, both in the MAC medical advisory board and from government agencies. Those medical experts were “uncomfortable” allowing students to play in the current environment.
No timeline has been released yet on how fall sports teams will proceed, but the conference plans to provide “competitive opportunities” in the spring of 2021.
Additionally, the decision affects only fall sports, winter and spring sports are still planned to begin at their normal times, and the conference will wait until those seasons approach to make a decision.
Just after the decision was announced, Kent State released a statement in support of the postponement.
The release stated that the university was not confident it could provide adequate health and safety elements given the unique risks associated with athletic competition, namely close personal contact and extensive travel.
Along with this release, Kent State President Todd Diacon directly addressed student-athletes.
“None of this is fair,” Diacon said. “In particular, I feel badly for our squads that are here, are working out and are following all of our safety protocols.”
Several sports, including football, already brought athletes to campus and began conditioning and work outs, with more slated to begin this weekend.
It is unknown at the moment if these athletes will be sent home until the start of the semester, or if workouts will continue through the fall semester.
Diacon did make it clear that the university would be making accommodations for student-athletes' scholarships and eligibility.
“It is important for you to know that you will keep your scholarship, and that we will engage with the NCAA to request an additional year of eligibility for those who seek it,” he said.
Steinbecher said he developed a plan to begin looking forward to the spring, working with administrations, coaches, student-athletes and others to form a plan for 2021, both for fall sports and the sports planned to play in the spring.
“By mid-fall hopefully we will have plans in place that will have been approved,” Steinbecher said. “The virus will have a big determination on our ability to ultimately say if (playing in the spring) will be a go.”
Contact Owen MacMillan at firstname.lastname@example.org.