By Anthony Covino
The fall sports of the Northeast Conference will return to competition in the spring semester at the same time that all students are expected to return to campus, the conference announced Thursday
The NEC’s “Return to Play Plan” was developed by the conference presidents and is subject to local, state and national regulation as well as the NCAA and, perhaps most importantly, the path that the pandemic takes over the next few weeks.
According to the plan, FDU’s cross country, volleyball, soccer and volleyball teams will return to play after the COVID-19 pandemic first postponed their seasons through the fall and into an unprecedented delay into the spring season.
“Today is the culmination of a long journey to provide our fall student-athletes with the opportunity to once again experience the joy and exhilaration of NEC competition,” NEC Commissioner Noreen Morris said.
“While the season may look different and we need to be prepared to adapt along the way, I applaud the NEC Council of Presidents, conference administrators and medical staff, and coached in their unwavering commitment to create a healthy and safe competitive environment. I admire the sacrifice, dedication, and resilience of our student-athletes during these uncertain times, and hope to be there when we crown NEC champions this spring,” she added.
Cross country will compete in a conference championship at Bryant on Feb. 27 with top individuals qualifying for the NCAAs. Other sports will play a modified regular-season schedule with the top two teams then playing one game for the right to advance into NCAA postseason competition.
The following set of guidelines helped determine the way the league will compete this pring, the NEC said:
- The health and safety of campus and conference communities remains the NEC’s top priority
- Decision-making around the resumption of sports will be informed by campus policies; local state and national guidance/policies; and NCAA guidance/policies
- The conference will strive to provide as meaningful as possible competitive experiences given the COVID-19 challenges facing our institutions
- An emphasis will be placed on minimizing the impact on spring sport student-athletes
- Establish regular season start dates that allow fall sport student-athletes to return to campus for the spring semester in the same time frame as the general student population
- Reduce travel costs, whenever possible, during the regular season and postseason
- Institutions will be provided the discretion to schedule non-conference competition prior to the start of the NEC season
The NCAA announced in September its plan to shift the 2020 fall sports championships to the 2021 spring semester, setting the course for its member institutions to follow.
The NEC plan for the fall sports that FDU participates in follows:
- NEC Men’s and Women’s Cross Championships are scheduled for Sat., Feb. 27, hosted by Bryant
- Makeup date in the case of inclement weather is Friday, March 5
- NEC men’s and women’s individual champions will automatically qualify for the NCAA Championship this year
- Teams will play eight conference matches in a single round-robin format over seven weeks from February 22 to April 8
- Matches will be played on Monday/Thursday
- NEC championship match will be contested the week of April 12-18 with the league’s No. 1 seed hosting the No. 2 seed to determine the conference’s automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament
- Teams will play nine conference matches in a single-round robin format over seven weeks from February 23 to April 9
- Matches will be played on Tuesday/Friday
- NEC Championship match will be contested the week of April 12-18 with the No. 1 seed hosting the No. 2 seed to determine the conference’s automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament
- Teams will play 14 conference matches over seven weeks from February 16 to March 31
- Each institution will play seven opponents in a same-day doubleheader format
- Matches will be played on Tuesdays from February 16 to March 2, on Wednesdays from March 10 to March 31
- NEC championship match will be contested the weekend of April 2-4 with No. 1 hosting the No. 2 to determine the conference’s automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament
Individual schools can opt out of participating in each sport, the league said.
At the end of an unprecedented year, the new season will begin in the new year to crown the next NEC champions!