CARMEL, Ind. — The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, in which Defiance College is a member, announced Monday that it has voted to move the start of fall competition and championships for certain sports to the spring.

The following is the release from the HCAC:

“After extensive deliberations, the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) Council of Presidents has unanimously voted to modify the timing of conference competition and championships for fall sports classified by the NCAA as high contact risk (football, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball).

“The Conference will move the start of those sports’ competitive seasons to the spring. The HCAC is committed to offering engaging athletic experiences for student athletes in these sports with extensive team activities this fall followed by spring competitive seasons. In adjusting to the challenges presented by the pandemic, these modifications maintain safety as the highest priority but help ensure the opportunity for as much participation as possible in each HCAC sport.

“The decisions on shifting the competitive seasons for these high contact risk sports came after careful analysis of whether HCAC institutions could successfully fulfill NCAA testing recommendations without drawing vital health resources from their local communities. In addition, the conference feels that as continued scientific and testing gains are made with respect to the COVID-19 virus, a spring season for the high contact risk sports will be safer for our student-athletes.

“Finally, with the recent NCAA waiver allowing for flexibility in how teams seasons are structured, the Council of Presidents felt that students could still have meaningful experiences this fall, even without conference competition.

“Based on their risk classifications as assigned by the NCAA, the HCAC will progress forward with fall seasons in the sports of golf, tennis and cross country. The conference will also schedule some competitions for the sports of baseball and softball in the fall that will not count toward league standings.”

Defiance College Athletic Director Derek Woodley mentioned the fact the HCAC will still go forward with “low-impact” fall sports of golf, cross country and tennis.

“We’re one of the few conferences that will compete in tennis, golf and cross country,” he said.

For Defiance, the plan is to have all student-athletes be on campus and working out with their respective teams this fall.

“With all of our sports, we plan on a robust training schedule for the fall,” added Woodley. “If we’re allowed to compete, we’ll compete. We want to engage our athletes as best as we can.”

The HCAC will also make a decision on high-impact winter sports soon.

“A decision on the timing of basketball season (defined as high contact risk sport by the NCAA) will be made in the near future,” according to the release. “Swimming and diving is classified as a low contact risk sport and will continue forward with its standard schedule. The sports of indoor and outdoor track and field, men’s lacrosse and women’s lacrosse have also not been altered at this time.

“The conference will continue to explore all options for a safe return to intercollegiate athletics. The HCAC leadership will communicate further developments regarding competition in 2020-21 as strategies are finalized and implemented. The priority of the HCAC and its Council of Presidents continues to be the health and safety of everyone in our campus communities and those involved in intercollegiate athletics at HCAC member institutions.”

The decision was made after numerous other Division III conferences around the country made moves to either play modified fall schedules of predominantly conference-only play or move fall activities to the spring of 2021.

“The pandemic isn’t slowing down,” said Woodley. “It made sense.”

“Although this is disappointing news for our student-athletes, coaches, staff and campus community, we understand the priority is the health and safety of everyone involved in athletics and on our campus,” Woodley said. “We are committed to providing a meaningful and engaging experience for our student-athletes and will develop a plan for the affected sports to include practices, workouts and training opportunities this fall, with details of those plans to be forthcoming. In addition, we will work diligently with our coaches and campus leaders to develop competitive opportunities this fall. Go Jackets!”

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