As of now, the volleyball and soccer programs at the University of Colorado are planning to hold their first official preseason practices on Aug. 15.
Exactly how long those workouts will last, or if there will be a 2020 season at all, remains to be seen.
On Wednesday, the NCAA announced an Aug. 21 deadline for each division to decide the fate of the fall sports schedule. For the Division I level, the NCAA Board of Governors pushed the decision to the Division I Council, though the final decisions on Olympic sports likely will be made at the conference level.
CU soccer coach Danny Sanchez and volleyball coach Jesse Mahoney have become well-versed in the art of controlling only what they can control since March, when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled all NCAA athletics and continues to threaten the upcoming fall sports ledger. Along with the CU cross country team, the Buffs’ non-football fall programs are forging ahead to begin preseason practices on Aug. 15, the first allowable date per NCAA guidelines (football is scheduled to open practice Aug. 17).
Matters could change within days, but the CU soccer and volleyball players are preparing for preseason camp as if their Pac-12-only schedules will unfold as planned beginning Sept. 26.
“We realize that the new word of the world is ‘fluid.’ If there were easy answers by now, somebody would have answered them,” Sanchez said. “How we’re looking at it is we’re excited to practice next Saturday. We’re approved for that, and hopefully this week we’ll have our schedule approved. Now we’ll have a couple carrots out there when there’s so much uncertainty.
“The one thing with this decision is when you look at the criteria that’s being put in place, Colorado is at the forefront of everything as far as testing, as far as tracing, as far as accountability. If that’s what it is, I feel more positive about it than yesterday when we thought maybe everything was going to be canceled.”
Among the lengthy list of requirements advised by the NCAA Board of Governors in order for fall sports to unfold is to make strict adherence to federal, state, and local COVID-19 guidelines. Additionally, the NCAA is establishing a phone number and email to allow players or parents to report any breaches of COVID-19 protocol, and all student-athletes will be allowed to opt out of the fall season, without losing their scholarships, if they are hesitant to play due to health concerns.
Schools will be unable to force student-athletes to sign legal waivers pertaining to any pandemic-related health issues, and any NCAA championships later in the fall will feature enhanced safety protocols and may be subject to reduced brackets. If at least 50 percent of eligible teams in one sport in any division decide to cancel their season, there will be no championship in that sport.
Leaders at the NCAA Division II and III levels opted to cancel all 2020 fall championships on Wednesday, though many football leagues at the Division III level already had taken that step. Until a similar decision arrives within the Pac-12, the CU soccer and volleyball teams expect to have full rosters available when preseason practice begins at the end of next week.
“It’s unlike the start of any season, and obviously the whole situation that everyone around the world is going through has been tough to varying degrees,” Mahoney said. “Our players are all in Boulder now , and they’re doing their best to prepare for a season if we have one. I think we understand there’s a lot of things happening outside our control. We’re doing our best to control what we can, and that’s to be prepared as best as we can for whatever situation is handed to us.”
While no CU soccer or volleyball players have as yet opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, Mahoney said Emily DeMure opted to graduate this month instead of in December in order to pursue a possible professional modeling career. DeMure, who would have been a fifth-year senior, is the reigning Miss Colorado…Sanchez said he currently is conducting interviews for a new coordinator of performance analysis and camp operations to replace Kelly Brown. Brown left the CU program in June to become the head women’s soccer coach at Regis University.