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ODAC postpones fall, winter sports

After extensive deliberations, the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Presidents Council voted to postpone conference competition and championships for fall and winter sports through the end of the 2020 calendar year.

This includes Hampden-Sydney College (H-SC), which is a member school of the ODAC.

The Tuesday, July 21, H-SC press release continued by stating the ODAC remains focused on providing meaningful competition for all student-athletes in 2020-21, which includes an intention to sponsor conference competition for fall and winter sports in the spring semester.

“The ODAC is one of the nation’s premiere Division III athletic conferences precisely because of our long-standing commitment to the student-athlete experience at all of our institutions,” Dr. David Bushman, Bridgewater College president and chair of the ODAC Presidents Council, said in the release. “In light of the broader public health concerns surrounding athletic competitions, the well-being of our campuses and everyone involved in athletic competition made this decision the right one.

“We have great athletic department leadership across the conference and a superb conference staff, and we are all committed to hosting meaningful competition as soon as it is safe to do so.”

H-SC Football Head Coach Marty Favret said he and his team are not looking at the postponement as a negative. He noted no one was surprised by it since dominoes started to fall with the other levels, like Division II, the subdivision and other Division III conferences.

“We’re excited about playing in the spring,” he said Wednesday, July 22. “I met with my team yesterday via Zoom and laid out that it’ll be different but kind of a neat challenge, and the possibility of playing Randolph-Macon (College) here at home on May 1st, this is going to be an adjustment, but it’s something that I think we can embrace as we move forward.”

Favret was excited by the time now allowed for player development.

“I’ve got six months now to get my freshmen ready versus three weeks,” he said. “We’ve got a real talented class coming in, so we’re excited, and we obviously want them back on campus.”

The coach indicated the impact of Tigers football is not lost on him.

“Certainly I understand, after 20 years on the job, how important football is to the community and to our alums, and I know that’s going to be a tough adjustment for them, but our kids are resilient, and we’re looking forward to it,” he said.

The press release stated that to help the ODAC and its member schools provide their student-athletes with the most complete athletic experience possible, NCAA Division III is considering a blanket waiver that would provide unprecedented scheduling flexibility.

The scheduling change would supply all conference sports with more time for individual and team skill instruction, strength and conditioning, leadership development and other athletically related activities during the academic year as health and safety conditions allow.

“The conference’s leadership worked extremely hard to explore ways we might have conducted conference championships and competition in the fall,” ODAC Commissioner Brad Bankston said in the release. “Those conversations involved a number of options, but none of them could change the current impact of the virus and its prevalence in our society.

“A safe return for students and the sustainability of campus life is a priority for all our members,” he continued. “The combination of fall, winter and spring sports in the second semester is challenging, but the ODAC is committed to providing all student-athletes with a meaningful conference regular season and championship experience in a safe manner.”

Favret said he has not heard definitively whether or not there will be a postseason in the spring after the regular season.

“We know that at least we’ll be playing for an ODAC championship, and so that’s our focus,” he said, referring to a title that is earned during the regular season. “We’ll still have that chance for our seniors to go out with a ring, and that’s something that we’re excited to get after.”

The conference will continue to explore all options for a safe return to intercollegiate athletics, the release stated near its conclusion. The ODAC leadership will communicate further developments regarding competition in 2020-21 as solutions are finalized and implemented.