Augustana's athletic conference announced this morning that it will postpone all fall sports competition and championships.
The decision by the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin (CCIW) came as the result of a unanimous vote by its Council of Presidents. The decision affects football, women’s volleyball, men and women’s soccer, men and women’s cross country, women’s golf and women’s tennis.
“This was a difficult decision, not made lightly, and sure to disappoint many of our athletes and our fans,” said Augustana President Steve Bahls. “As a college president, I have the responsibility to care for our students and take actions to prevent undue risk to our students.
"Given the person-to-person contact in sports, the inability to wear masks and social distance, travel in larger groups and the related heightened risk of spread, continuation of fall sports is a risk that I am unwilling to expose our athletes to.”
The CCIW will explore the feasibility of cross country, soccer, football and women’s volleyball competing in the spring. At the same time, the league will maintain full conference competition in spring sports. Women’s golf and women’s tennis championships will move to the spring on dates still to be determined by the CCIW.
“I am absolutely heartbroken for our fall sports student-athletes and coaches, but considering the current state of the national public health situation, this announcement should not come as a complete surprise,” said Mike Zapolski, Augustana director of athletics. “I anticipate that our fall sports programs will plan to practice and train in the weeks ahead with the hope of being able to conduct competition during the spring.”
Fall sports teams will be allowed to practice, and there is the possibility of limited, low-contact competitions. These competitions would not be sponsored or endorsed by the CCIW and must be in accordance with NCAA Division III rules and campus, local, state and NCAA health directives.
“The decision by the CCIW presidents to postpone conference seasons applies to conference activities only," Bahls said. "It does not prohibit skill development, conditioning and other similar opportunities for all student-athletes on campus during the fall (including some competition), if consistent with state of Illinois policies and NCAA guidelines.”
“I have asked Mike Zapolski, our director of athletics, to work with the coaches to provide these opportunities for our athletes during the fall, ensuring that there are written and approved safety plans showing compliance with college policies, public health guidelines and NCAA guidance.”
The last time Augustana postponed an entire season was during World War II when the Vikings suspended play in football in 1943 and 1944 and played just four games in 1945. Baseball was suspended in 1943, 1944 and 1945, and swimming missed the 1943-44, 1944-45 and 1945-46 seasons. Tennis was sidelined in 1944 and 1945. Basketball and track & field did not miss any time during World War II.
The CCIW Council of Presidents will continue to meet and make a decision on winter sports, which will continue to be evaluated in the coming weeks.
In addition to Augustana, the conference includes Carroll University, Carthage College, Elmhurst College, Illinois Wesleyan University, Millikin University, North Central College, North Park University and Wheaton College.
DIII conferences have responded in different ways to the pandemic. According to WONC Sports Radio, among all DIII conferences as of last week, 10 have postponed or canceled fall sports, eight plan on having fall sports, seven will have only conference competition, four have yet to decide, three have delayed and one postponed only football.
Dave Wrath, associate director of athletics for media and alumni relations, 309-794-7265