There was a shoe-shaped shadow above fall sports at URI, and last Friday, it finally dropped. Both the Atlantic 10 and CAA conferences made moves to, at the very least, postpone their seasons to next year, if not outright cancel them.
URI plays every fall sport but football within the A-10 conference. Their press release at the end of last week was a death sentence for fall sports, but did add the disclaimer that they “intend to conduct a competitive schedule for the fall sports in the 2021 spring semester”.
The A-10 plans to accomplish that by creating a 60-day ‘look-in window’, which basically means that if the threat of COVID-19 is less by September, the conference will begin creating a limited conference scheduled that could play out in the spring of 2021.
“The decision to not compete this fall is painful, but it is the right decision,” URI AD Thorr Bjorn said. “Our primary responsibility is to act in the best interests of the health and well-being of all our student-athletes. We want to provide the best possible experience during their time here, and that must be done in a responsible manner.”
The A-10 postponements affect URI men’s and women’s soccer, as well as cross country and women’s volleyball. Rowing, golf and tennis will also be unable to compete this fall.
There is no football in the A-10, so URI competes in that sport in the Colonial Athletic Association. That conference also addressed the fall season on Friday, revealing that their Board of Directors had voted to suspend the fall season. Just like the A-10, the CAA is hopeful that many of their sports can simply be shifted to the spring.
“I commend the Board of Directors for their forward thinking and open-mindedness when dealing with the uncertain and complex moment that we find ourselves in,” said CAA Commissioner Joe D’Antonio. “Each of our institutions is making the best decisions for its campus community, based on a totality of the circumstances analysis.”
The league mentions football by name in their press release, and gives all CAA teams permission to pursue an independent schedule in 2020 if they so choose. League power James Madison has already announced they will purse that path; URI has said they will not hit the gridiron this calendar year.
Just a year after debuting new lights and a new field, the URI football program won’t even play a single game this season. They lose out on a $400,000 payout they would have netted from playing Northern Illinois in their opener, and won’t play against Brown for the first time in a century.
The A-10 has said that, as of now, winter sports are on track to start normally. URI’s most popular sport in that season – men’s basketball – is already discussing how to play games with limited or no attendance.
Teams will be allowed to practice on campus despite the postponed seasons. Most of URI’s current basketball roster is on campus and working out in small groups.