The Big West Conference Board of Directors postponed fall sports competition on July 29, acknowledging the health threat COVID-19 poses to Big West Campuses and their surrounding communities. While the fate of fall and winter sports at UCSD remains unclear, Associate Athletics Director Jeff Tourial explained that the university remains committed to transitioning to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I competition.
Originally named the Pacific Coast Athletic Association, the Big West Conference is an American collegiate athletic conference. Its members, including UCLA and UC Davis, participate in the NCAA Division I. UCSD was inducted into the conference on July 1, and is set to compete in men’s and women’s cross country, track and field, soccer, tennis, and volleyball, among others this season.
The Board is still debating whether the fall sports teams could compete during the spring season. Their decision will depend on the state of the pandemic and available athletic facilities this Spring.
Despite the hiatus of competitions on Big West campuses, scholar-athletes can return to campus at each university’s discretion. The UCSD Intercollegiate Athletics Program will allow team practices for Fall Quarter. Tourial explains that team training and conditioning will follow the permitted NCAA guidelines, claiming that scholar-athlete’s physical and mental health is a priority.
Following the statement, UCSD’s Athletics Director Earl W. Edwards agreed with the decision to postpone fall sports competition.
”Nothing is more important than ensuring the scholar-athletes under our care are able to join their classmates this fall as part of the Return To Learn program in a safe and supportive environment.” Edwards also noted a hold on fall sports competition is imminent if there are no favorable changes during the pandemic.
This postponement impacts all UCSD intercollegiate competitions, including those not in the Big West Conference like the men’s water polo program. According to Tourial, the athletics program will proceed with the intention to eventually compete unless fall and winter sports are cancelled by the Board.
Despite these setbacks, UCSD’s athletic program is determined to finalize its move to Division I. With its formal addition to the conference on July 1, the university will begin the first year of a four-year transition program in which it must comply with NCAA guidelines and regulations in order to be fully reclassified as Division I. The program is expected to conclude in Spring 2024 after which UCSD will become a full Division I school. At this time, it is unclear if the health crisis will delay this transition.
Following the Big West Conference announcement, the debate over the future of fall and winter sports continues. The uncertainty of the pandemic has raised concerns for scholar-athletes as well as coaches and staff. All future decisions will depend on how the pandemic progresses.
Alba Reyes is a Staff Writer for The Triton. You can follow her here.