The NCAA‘s Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) announced on Wednesday that cross-country and other fall sports will begin in September, as long as public health officials still deem it safe to do so at that time. The announcement comes after many Division II and III conferences, as well as several Division I leagues, made the decision to cancel fall sports entirely for 2020. The ACC’s Medical Advisory Group (MAG) has published a report which outlines the minimum standards regarding COVID-19 for the conference’s schools and sports, and it is noted that athletes must be tested on a regular basis (although the rate of testing varies from sport to sport).
Updates regarding 2020 Fall Sports and Football have been announced.
— The ACC (@theACC) July 29, 2020
Sport risk assessment
In the MAG report, it was decided that close contact sports (like football, soccer and basketball) were high-risk for COVID-19. Cross-country is listed as a medium-risk sport, along with baseball and softball. The lineup of low-risk sports includes tennis, golf and track and field (both indoor and outdoor). The MAG states that, for high-risk sports, “all members of the respective team and those that are in close contact with the team shall be tested every week” once competitions begin in September. For cross-country, athletes and anyone in close contact with the team will be tested every other week.
“Even with its limitations,” the MAG report says, “testing is a strong way to protect student-athletes and adds a level of certainty for both the health care practitioners and the student-athletes.”
John Swofford, commissioner of the ACC, says the conference’s decision was made after months of planning. “The Board’s decision presents a path, if public health guidance allows, to move forward with competition,” he says. “Our institutions are committed to taking the necessary measures to facilitate the return in a safe and responsible manner. We recognize that we may need to be nimble and make adjustments in the future. We will be as prepared as possible should that need arise.”
The announcement states that it will be up to each school to plan their cross-country seasons, whether they feature conference or non-conference competitions. As for the ACC Championships, they will be held on October 30 in North Carolina, and “all 15 member schools” will be included.
A number of conferences across all three NCAA athletic divisions have cancelled their fall sports seasons. Several Division I conferences have postponed the start of their seasons until later in the fall, and the Atlantic 10 has said all fall sports may be pushed until 2021, in which case athletes would “prepare for a spring 2021 competitive schedule.” On a bigger stage, it was announced on Thursday that the organizing committee for the 2021 World Cross Country Championships in Australia, which were set for March 20, has recommended that the event be postponed until the COVID-19 situation has improved more around the world.