Sidelined CU Buffs fall sports squads ready for January restart

With NCAA calendar set, Pac-12 needs to address scheduling matters

Colorado volleyball coach Jesse Mahoney and the Buffaloes will have to get the job done on the road to make a run at the NCAA Tournament. But not until after a home series that begins Friday against Washington State.
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado volleyball coach Jesse Mahoney and the Buffaloes will have to get the job done on the road to make a run at the NCAA Tournament. But not until after a home series that begins Friday against Washington State.

While the return of Pac-12 Conference football may be on the horizon, the remainder of the league’s fall sports teams have been in limbo since the league’s Aug. 11 announcement postponing all competition until at least Jan. 1.

That changed on Tuesday, as the NCAA announced a 2021 season calendar for all postponed fall sports. For the Colorado Buffaloes, that means women’s soccer, volleyball, and cross country will be back in action in January.

“Obviously these are NCAA parameters, so there’s still a lot of things to figure out,” CU volleyball coach Jesse Mahoney said. “The Pac-12 still needs to make a lot of decisions about a lot of things, but it’s nice to have something that feels more concrete. Something to work towards on the calendar, to works towards and plan. I definitely feel like we’re moving in the right direction.”

The soccer season will run from Feb. 13 through April 17, with an NCAA Tournament selection show set for April 18. Volleyball will compete from Jan. 22 through April 3, with a tournament selection show slated for the following day. Both the volleyball and the women’s soccer tournaments will feature 48-team fields instead of the typical 64.

It will be left up to individual schools to determine a start date for preseason practice. Additionally, it will be up to the Pac-12 to determine if the Buffs’ volleyball and soccer teams will be allowed to play nonconference games, or if 2021 will bring conference-only schedules. If nonconference games are allowed they likely will be regional.

The Pac-12 CEO group of presidents and chancellors are scheduled to meet on Thursday, but that discussion is expected to focus on possibly restarting football while perhaps addressing men’s and women’s basketball moving to the NCAA-approved Nov. 25 start date.

On Aug. 13 the NCAA announced the cancellation of all fall sports championships, which now will be held in the spring. That has not stopped leagues like the ACC and SEC from moving ahead with their fall sports schedules.

“Hopefully we’ll know sooner than later, because our student-athletes in all the sports, we need to be able to plan a little bit,” said Buffs soccer coach Danny Sanchez, who added he doesn’t believe his team will need much time to get game-ready. “So we’re hoping the decision-makers that are making those decisions are taking the coaches’ inputs and we’re able to put something together so we can start planning out what the rest of the year will look like.”

As for cross country, last month CU coach Mark Wetmore expressed reservations about running a cross country season alongside an indoor track season, but that is exactly what is going to occur in January. Decisions still have to be made whether distance runners can run both seasons at the same time, or if they will be required to declare for one or the other. Regardless, the situation will put a dent into the distance-running events for CU’s indoor track squad, as Wetmore said “we intend to take cross country as seriously as we ever do.”

That means the Buffs’ top distance runners will prioritize aiming for a national championship in cross country over competing in indoor track. The cross country season will begin on Jan. 22 with the NCAA championships scheduled for March 15.

“Just shy of insurmountable,” Wetmore said of the challenges of coaching cross country and indoor track simultaneously. “Where do we find grass and cross country surfaces to train on in January and February? How do have some of my staff there and some at indoor track? Who goes to a cross country race at Oklahoma State in the middle of February, and what coaches go to an indoor track meet in Seattle on the same weekend? It’s enormous.”