On July 8, the University Athletic Association (UAA) announced they will not mandate the conference schedule, allowing institutions within the conference to make decisions that best fit the well-being of their players.
While conference games are now more flexible, each university can still compete in the scheduled UAA games if guidelines set by the university allow. Teams are also strongly encouraged to play schools outside of the UAA if they do so safely.
“It makes sense, at this time, to move away from a conference-adopted schedule,” the statement said. “While we will continue to try to maintain UAA playing relationships as a priority, each UAA institution needs the flexibility to find additional local sports partners with which to compete, as they are able.”
To many Emory athletes, the statement — though understandable — was by no means easy to hear. Senior right side hitter Leah Saunders recognized the necessity of the decision but was still heartbroken to find that her final season as an Eagle would be anything but ordinary.
“[The statement] came as a surprise to myself and my teammates,” Saunders said. “Competing in the UAA conference is such a unique experience, so it’s sad to think about the matches and games that we won’t get to play together.”
In their statement, the UAA also suggested that conference schools use the scheduled dates of UAA competition as a starting point, encouraging them to adjust schedules accordingly.
Even with the UAA’s removal of mandated conference play, Emory, along with the other UAA schools, must still finalize the plan for the fall. In response to the UAA statement, Emory Athletics Director Michael Vienna hopes to make a decision by July 15.
If fall sports are allowed to proceed, men’s soccer Head Coach Cory Greiner said the plan will likely involve testing and contact tracing.
“I am hopeful we will receive some guidance as to the University’s decision here in the next few days and we will go from there with a plan for the fall,” Greiner said in a July 10 email to the Wheel. “If we are able to play, it is certainly going to look different in terms of scheduling and travel.”
Other schools in the UAA are also monitoring the situation, with some fall sports already canceled. In a July 8 statement, Carnegie Mellon University (Pa.) Athletics announced that they will not participate in any intercollegiate athletics this fall. The University of Chicago, Brandeis University (Mass.) and Washington University in St. Louis, however, have not made any decisions yet. The University of Rochester plans to follow New York state guidelines in reopening their facilities.
Outside of the UAA, many schools face the difficult decision of whether to continue sports, let alone in-person classes. On July 8, the Ivy League announced that all fall sports will be canceled, with Harvard University (Mass.) completely online in the fall and the spring.
But each sport, although under the same heading, is entirely different from the next. What may be possible for an individual sport such as golf may not be possible for a team sport like volleyball. Saunders hopes, though, that some of her team’s season can be spared.
“I think we all understand that so many changes will have to be made in order to even let students back on campus,” Saunders said. “That being said, I hope that the University finds a way for teams to practice and compete in some capacity while making sure the rest of the Emory community can stay healthy.”
While fall sports are just around the corner, winter sports, too, will soon need a plan of action regarding their seasons. The UAA and Athletic Administrators Committee will address winter sports once all campus guidelines are finalized.