The Berry Vikings will have to find a way to cope with the loss of fall sports as the Southern Athletic Association announced Thursday it is suspending all conference athletic competition for the 2020 fall season.

“As each campus has developed their plans for the fall semester, the conference studied together how might sustain our fall athletic competition,” Berry President Dr. Stephen Briggs said in a statement. “Unfortunately, intercollegiate athletic play is complicated by the intensity of the direct contact that occurs in most fall sports as well as the geographic distances that define our conference. Given the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the southeast, the conference presidents determined there was no effective means to ensure the safety of conference play.”

According to the SAA’s statement, the conference’s Presidents’ Council has been discussing the COVID-19 pandemic and plan for the 2020-21 athletic season over the course of the last several months and voted for suspending athletics.

“The highest priority at each institution is the health and wellbeing of our campus communities, student-athletes, coaches, administrators, and spectators,” SAA Commissioner Jay Gardiner said in a statement. “As the pandemic evolves, the SAA will continue to monitor the situation and intends to resume fall sports competition in early 2021.”

The SAA’s statement continued that during the coming fall, “each institution will have an opportunity to work with student-athletes for training opportunities outside a traditional season, consistent with federal and state public health authorities, the NCAA, and institutional guidelines.”

In Berry College’s statement, it said the institution intends to engage in athletically-related activities including “training, practice, leadership programming and other activities,” while respecting restrictions from federal and state public health authorities, NCAA bylaws and institutional guidelines.

There is hope for fall sports to resume later in the year, as the SAA stated it will join other Division III conferences in a request to the NCAA to postpone fall championships until the spring semester of 2021.

No decision was announced regarding 2020-21 collegiate winter sports.

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