Central Washington and its fellow GNAC members will be on their own when it comes to creating schedules for fall sports this school year.
The conference announced Friday its management council approved institutional autonomy to schools still hoping to compete in soccer, volleyball and cross country. GNAC leadership councils will meet in mid-February to assess possible conference scheduling for spring sports, including potential championship events.
COVID-19 restrictions erased most of the 2020 spring season and prevented any sports from happening so far in the 2020-21 school year. Athletic directors voted to cancel plans for a spring football season in September and Central Washington joined five other league schools when it opted out of a confernce schedule for men's and women's basketball in November.
An independent scheduling format for fall sports will give member schools maximum flexibility, according to a GNAC release. With schools in Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Montana and Oregon, the teams may face varying levels of regulation and risk as they try to return to competition.
"We’re going to attempt to play a limited number of games," CWU athletic director Dennis Francois said. "The parameters that we put around that is the same thing we’ve done with basketball."
That includes only in-state games, although the Wildcats may host out-of-state opponents such as Northwest Nazarene. They won't make any overnight trips and the number of competitions will be limited to eight for volleyball and six for basketball and women's soccer.
Francois said tentatively scheduled basketball games could begin as soon as the second weekend of February for the men and the last weekend of February for the women, depending on community COVID-19 risk and restrictions. Athletic practices will resume Jan. 19, following a negative test and two-week quarantine as required for all CWU students returning to campus for the new semester.
Central volleyball coach Mario Andaya and women's soccer coach Michael Farrand said in a statement they're pleased with the opportunity to compete safely. Farrand added the leadership of his senior class has been tremendous and said he's hoping they'll have an opportunity to play meaningful games this spring.
All Division II athletes in 2020 spring and fall sports, as well as 2020-21 winter sports, have received a waiver for an extra year of eligibility. No waivers have been granted yet for 2021 spring sports.