In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sun Belt Conference decided Thursday to push back the start date of its fall sports regular season to Sept. 3.
This decision did not impact football, but it changed the potential start dates of women’s soccer (Aug. 20), men’s soccer (Aug. 27), volleyball (Aug. 28) and cross country (Sept. 1).
“Now, it’s consistent across the board,” Coastal Carolina University Athletic Director Matt Hogue said. “Before, we had staggered beginning dates.”
Those dates were the earliest each respective sport could have started according to NCAA by-laws.
“It varies from sport to sport,” Hogue said. “It’s not based on conference. Every Div. I school follows the same by-laws. It’s consistent for all schools.”
The Sun Belt’s football season is still set to begin on Sept. 5, with Coastal Carolina scheduled to play at South Carolina.
Hogue said the decision to push back the start of the Sun Belt fall sports season was unanimous.
“In regards to the pandemic, it was a consensus decision among membership schools,” he said. “We decided earlier in the week and then had it ratified by the presidents of member schools.”
Hogue believes this newfound time to prepare for the season will be beneficial for fall sports teams.
“It allows more time to get acclimated,” he said. “Everyone’s typical schedules are disjointed and abnormal. Being able to allow more time for athletes to be reintegrated on campus gives them an opportunity to prepare.”
Hogue also said that some of Coastal Carolina’s fall sports program have lost contests because other conferences have pushed back their start dates, now working to reschedule these games. None of the Chanticleers’ fall sports schedules have been released yet besides football.
The Sun Belt and Coastal Carolina will continue to make adjustments based on the virus.
“We’re monitoring the climate, having formal discussions and comparing where things stand,” Hogue said. “We will manage things day to day and follow the best guidance from public health officials. It’s difficult, but it’s not prudent to get too far ahead of ourselves. It could change in 24 hours, five days or two weeks. The league’s done a good job.”