Sun Belt Conference commissioner Keith Gill hosted a teleconference on Thursday to clarify how the league is progressing as it pertains to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
As is the case with just about every collegiate conference or professional organization worldwide, the Sun Belt has found itself in uncharted waters as it first canceled its basketball tournaments, followed quickly by the abandonment of all spring sports and any organized team activities among its member institutions.
“To say the last few weeks have been challenging would be the understatement of, maybe, a lifetime,” Gill said. “We were forced to make decisions that affect the core mission of the conference. Those decisions weren’t taken lightly, but we had to consider the safety of our student-athletes first.”
In addition to the cancellation of the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, seven spring sports hosted by the conference - men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s golf, baseball, softball and outdoor track - were all called off just weeks into their respective campaigns.
Gill stated that discussions have been ongoing as to how seniors playing spring sports might be able to return for a final year of competition next season. The overall feeling nationwide is that most are in favor of allowing another year of eligibility for seniors, but scholarship costs and roster sizes are major concerns that would have to be altered in order to accommodate such a drastic change.
While discussions will go on about next year’s spring sports, a pressing issue is now the fate of fall sports - specifically football. Nothing has been called off past the spring sports schedule, but the uncertainty of the virus outbreak and ongoing safety protocols now have the beginnings of fall sports in question.
“It’s far from over,” Gill said of the pandemic and possible safety precautions. “We’re hopeful about football season going on as scheduled, but we don’t want to speculate. We’ve been in contact with coaches to create various models that we can make work if the current schedule has to be altered.”
Gill also announced the creation of a COVID-19 advisory panel for the Sun Belt.
Georgia Southern Senior Women’s Administrator Brandy Clouse is one of four conference administrators with sports medicine experience who will be consulted about how to best cope with athletic activities as the nation continues to deal with the pandemic.
Updates in schedules will be provided by both the Sun Belt and on the officiall Georgia Southern Athletics website.