NCAC, Wittenberg push start of fall sports back

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Before coronavirus, "The Steemer" was starting to get used by teams from around Clark County and beyond according to AD Gary Williams.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Wittenberg football has lost two games off schedule

The North Coast Athletic Conference will not permit athletic contests until Sept. 18, it announced Thursday, and schools will play only conference games during the regular season.

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For Wittenberg University, that means the season-opening football game Sept. 5 against Washington & Jefferson is off the schedule, though W&J’s conference, the Presidents Athletic Conference, had already announced Tuesday its football season wouldn’t begin until Sept. 19.

One NCAC program, Oberlin College, also announced Wednesday it won’t play fall sports at all, so Wittenberg’s football schedule has eight games right now. Of course, things could still change between now and September.

“We haven’t stopped working on this since May,” said Wittenberg Athletic Director Gary Williams. “I have a bit of a unique perspective because I’m the co-chair of the campus COVID-19 response team, which is the one bering used to reopen the whole campus. I think there are just so many moving parts right now. Clearly the health and safety of our student-athletes is the No. 1 priority.”

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The health and safety of coaches, trainers, officials, etc, also plays into the decision. The NCAC sports affected by the delay are men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis and women’s volleyball.

Wittenberg announced it will break up the “re-socialization of sport plan” into three separate 14-day phases with Phase 1 beginning Aug. 7. The playing schedules for all the fall sports are currently being reworked. Non-conference games will be cancelled. Conference games requiring overnight travel will be eliminated.

While the implications of COVID-19 are the No. 1 factor affecting decisions, Williams said Wittenberg’s “caged Tigers,” athletes stuck at home for months, “need time to acclimate to be ready to compete.”

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Another issue for Wittenberg and other schools in Ohio at the college and high school level is COVID-19 testing. The Ohio Department of Health announced Tuesday contact and non-contact competition could resume if teams would agree to certain guidelines, one of them being the testing of all players, coaches, athletic trainers, support staff, and officials before travel and competition.

“The testing issue is one that’s most difficult for us right now,” Williams said. “We’re really trying to do the right thing. In order to do it right and test correctly, you have to be very expansive with your testing. We’ve been working nonstop with the health department and trying to figure out how and what that will look like. My hope is as we get closer to the school year we are all going to get some assistance with the testing issue from a cost standpoint but also from an availability standpoint.”