The Old Dominion Athletic Conference released an update on the status of all sports for the 2020-2021 academic year on Tuesday. The following statement was released on its website:
Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) leadership has continued its thorough review of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on athletic opportunities throughout the league’s membership. The ODAC Presidents’ Council, in consultation with the ODAC Board of Directors, has endorsed a plan for a return to collegiate competition during the 2021 spring semester.
“Every institution in the ODAC has been focused on ensuring the best possible student experience throughout the pandemic and the role athletics plays in that is an important one,” commented Dr. David Bushman, President of Bridgewater College and currently serving as chair of the ODAC Presidents Council. “As we have all learned over the past nine months, prudent planning and the capacity to respond quickly to changing circumstances go hand in hand. We believe putting detailed plans in place now for a return to competition beginning in January is the best way to honor the commitment we make to all of our students.”
The first priority of the conference leadership is ensuring the well-being of all individuals involved in collegiate competition and its member campuses. As such, the ODAC Presidents’ Council committed that the conference will follow all established NCAA testing recommendations. A Standard Operating Procedures for Competition has been completed. The document was developed by the ODAC Board of Directors and a number of member working groups including athletic training and sports medicine personnel.
The ODAC considered several different scheduling models as part of its return to competition plan. The resulting framework provides regular season and conference championship structures for fall and winter sports in addition to the unaltered previously established spring sport schedules and championships. Basketball, indoor track & field, and swimming will maintain their opportunities to qualify for NCAA championship participation. Second semester competition is scheduled to begin on January 23 with men’s and women’s basketball. All other sports will begin later as the semester progresses.
“The conference has worked diligently to create a plan for all our student-athletes to continue their collegiate athletic experience in the spring,” explained ODAC Commissioner Brad Bankston. “I am pleased with the progress we have made and the plans we have created. While no one can control the pandemic, we can continue to follow local guidance, implement well-documented best practices regarding health and safety, and prepare for competition following the recommendations presented by the NCAA. I thank all the student-athletes, parents, coaches and fans who have been patient with us during this difficult time. We’re all living in an environment where we must continue to closely monitor recommendations from health professionals and pivot when and where needed.”
Conference leadership will meet on a regular basis between now and the end of 2020 and continue with its planning for competition in 2021. Leadership will track the progress of COVID-19 and subsequent health and safety recommendations provided by local, state and national public health authorities.
Of note is the announcement that the 2020 football season will begin on Friday February 26 and will consist of up to five games, with additional information to come soon.
In other conference news, Emory & Henry College announced on Tuesday it will depart the ODAC as a result of their decision to move up from NCAA's Division III to Division II. The Wasps plan to move to the South Athletic Conference as part of that upward move. That conference features the likes of UVA-Wise, Mars Hill, Catawba, Lenoir-Rhyne, and Queens University of Charlotte.
The move leaves the ODAC with twelve basketball members for both men and women, but the move reduces the number of football schools to seven, after the pending move of Southern Virginia University, a short-term football member, out of the conference after the 2020-21 season.