The Big West Conference Board of Directors announced it will make a decision on a plan for the 2020 fall sports season no later than July 20.

The date is in conjuntion with the NCAA College Football Oversight Committee’s decision to submit a detailed four-phase plan for college football activities.

The directors of the 11 universities in the Big West, including UCSB, shared important concerns and questions regarding COVID-19 and its inevitable effect on the conference and intercollegiate athletics for the fall season.

The in-season sports in the conference for the fall include men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s cross country.

Here are the tenets and principles addressed in the board’s statement concering the fall season:

Health and Safety

Our preeminent North Star—the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches, staff, and fans—continues, as it must,  to be the light by which we navigate this pandemic.

Intercollegiate Athletics’ Transformative Impact

That said, and emphasized, the Board also recognizes and values highly the transformative co-curricular impact that intercollegiate athletics provides not just for our student-athletes, but all of our respective communities and the states of California and Hawaii.

Timing of Decision-Making

With that in mind, and directly reflective of the rapidly-evolving nature of the medical and scientific data that have driven and will continue to drive the decisions we make, it would neither be fair nor responsible to prematurely announce a final decision regarding fall athletics.  We do not need to make that decision today, this week, or even this month.  Instead, we have time for our health experts to continue the work that will both inform and empower us to make a better evidence-based decision when the game clock of our fall season truly is nearing zero.

Phased In Strategy

We intend to use this time not just for our medical professionals to move forward, but for us, as a Conference, to progress in accordance with the health and safety recommendations currently in hand.  This will, no doubt, look a bit different throughout the Conference as we direct each of our 11 campuses to guide a customized, phased-in return plan that best fits both the nature of their respective Fall sports and the current CDC, State Departments of Health and local health agency guidelines most applicable to the geographic location in which they are located.

This phased-in approach comes with the pre-condition that such measures may need to be rolled back, paused (or in the best of circumstances accelerated) at any time, and that all current Federal, State, Local, and University COVID-19 prevention practices must be observed.  These practices must include, but are not limited to:

» All equipment and facilities used by student-athletes or staff must be adequately and properly sanitized after each use.

» Respective county guidelines in regards to facility sanitation and personal protective equipment shall be followed on each    campus.

» CDC-recommended physical distancing practices must be observed at all times.

» Any and all other health and safety protocols required by the CDC, NCAA, State Departments of Health, or local agencies must be observed.

If and when all of these and other precautionary measures are in place, the Big West Board of Directors support an individualized, campus-specific phased-in approach that includes the following steps as health and safety protocols mandate:

» Minimum initial campus re-population of key staff, coaches, and administrators.

» Followed by minimum and strategically scheduled re-population of student-athletes.

» Whenever possible and practical, all communications and certain training sessions between student-athletes, coaches, and staff should continue to be virtual.

These and any other phased-in steps should be carried out with a focus on doing so with the fewest possible people on campus and always consistent with public health guidance.  We are hopeful for fall competitions, but we are cautious.

Next Steps
We will issue an updated statement about our Fall 2020 season in conjunction with the NCAA no later than July 20.

Until then, stay healthy, stay strong, and remember that despite the fierce rivalries we share on the field, it is the genuine love and mutual respect we share off the field that will safely and successfully guide us through this pandemic — now and in the weeks and months to come.

— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.