Football season canceled
SALISBURY – After careful consideration, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Board of Directors, in conjunction with its Athletic Directors Association (ADA), has voted to delay the start of all winter sports seasons, which includes men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s indoor track and field, and women’s bowling.
Men’s and women’s basketball will begin their seasons on January 9, 2021, while start dates for indoor track and field and women’s bowling are still under review.
Additionally, at the recommendation of the CIAA and ADA, and with approval from the Board of Directors, the conference has opted not to sponsor championship seasons for football as well as men’s and women’s cross country during the 2020-21 athletic year, while women’s volleyball will proceed with a 2021 spring season.
“Delaying the start of our winter seasons acts in the best interest of our student-athletes, coaches, and support staff as it ensures proper resocialization for all parties while affording our membership the opportunity to implement recommended health and safety measures prior to competition,” said CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams. “Although unfortunate and unprecedented circumstances this year will prohibit athletic seasons for some, we remain committed to bolstering opportunities that amplify the experiences of our student-athletes, member institutions, partners and fans.”
“This difficult decision was made with the best interest of our student-athletes, coaches and staff in mind,” said Livingstone College Athletic Director Lamonte Massie-Sampson. “There are so many unknowns as it relates to this pandemic so it behooves us to be proactive in every approach to resuming sports. We feel very comfortable with and fully support the decision made by our conference.”
This Blue Bear football season would have been the first with former NFL standout Sean Gilbert as head football coach. Gilbert was drafted as the third pick in the first round to the Los Angeles Rams and would go on to play 11 years in the NFL for several teams including the Washington Redskins, Carolina Panthers and Oakland Raiders. He retired in 2003.
Gilbert is using this time with the 84 players on the squad to focus on strength conditioning as well as build strong relationships with the players through mentoring.
“This is a very challenging time,” Massie-Sampson said. “But our student-athletes will be highly engaged within their programs, focused on academics and preparing for the next phase in their sport. Our top priority is their health and well-being.”
No student-athlete will lose their scholarships for this academic year, he added.
The CIAA stated that both men’s and women’s basketball will feature a 16-game conference schedule while offering teams the autonomy to play up to six contests against non-conference opponents. All teams will adhere to a uniform COVID-19 testing and reporting policy prior to each contest.
“Throughout this process, our board, the ADA, and conference staff have been consistent about the safety and well-being of our students and staff being the number one priority,” said Makola Abdullah, Virginia State University president and CIAA board chair. “Despite some tough decisions, we remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure that all of our membership is in the best possible position for the foreseeable future.”
The conference will proceed with spring sports on schedule, as prescribed by NCAA Division II, but will continue to monitor any changes in legislation that could impact those plans.
“The leadership within our conference remains committed to ensuring the safety, health and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches and staff. Decisions of this magnitude, while never easy, are made with those factors as the primary focus,” said Clyde Doughty, Bowie State VP of Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreation and CIAA ADA president. “These are unprecedented times for all of us, and we continue to work collectively to identify the solutions that act in the best interest of our membership.”
An update on CIAA championships for spring and winter seasons will be provided at a later time with the plan for regular season competition now approved.
For the latest information on the CIAA, visit theciaa.com.