Central State University, SIAC cancel fall sports season

New Central State University football coach Bobby Rome works on the field at McPherson Stadium this week. Tom Archdeacon/CONTRIBUTED

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New Central State University football coach Bobby Rome works on the field at McPherson Stadium this week. Tom Archdeacon/CONTRIBUTED

AD Tara Owens calls decision difficult but necessary

The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, which includes Central State University in Wilberforce, announced Thursday it is suspending the fall sports season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The decision comes on the same day the Big Ten Conference announced it will hold only conference games in all sports this fall, while the North Coast Athletic Conference pushed the start date of the fall sports season back to Sept. 19. Earlier in the week, the Ivy League cancelled its fall sports season. Back in May, Sinclair Community College suspended all sports for the entire 2020-21 academic year.

For Central State, the decision means the football, volleyball and men’s and women’s cross country teams will not compete this fall.

“We've been in communication and conversation with a lot of different entities — the Ohio Department of Health, the CDC, the NCAA and our conference office — dating back to March to decide our best course of action," said Central State Athletic Director Tara A. Owens. "Through a lot of careful consideration and thoughtful analysis, the SIAC member institutions came to a difficult but necessary decision to forgo fall competition."

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Central State will continue to honor the scholarships of affected athletes and will hold discussions about moving the fall sports to the spring. Owens said there was a more positive feeling about the potential of fall sports returning earlier this summer and in the spring.

The large blueprint of the SIAC, which has schools in Ohio, Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama, also factored into the decision. All of those states are seeing increasing numbers of COVID-19.

The conference includes Albany State University, Benedict College, Clark Atlanta University, Fort Valley State University, Kentucky State University, Lane College, LeMoyne-Owen College, Miles College, Morehouse College, Savannah State University, Spring Hill College, and Tuskegee University.

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“The decision to extend the SIAC suspension into the fall of 2020 was guided by the prevailing data, science as well as current coronavirus infection trajectories,” said SIAC Council of President Chairman George T. French, Jr. “In light of these very difficult realities, and in the context of the overarching priority of all of my colleague SIAC presidents to protect the health, wellness and safety of all of our students and staff, we are confident that the decision announced today is consistent with those fundamental health and safety priorities.”

Owens said she has been in constant communication with Central State coaches and prepared them for all potential scenarios.

"I really commend our coaches for remaining composed during this unprecedented time," Owens said. "They've done a tremendous job of communicating with our student-athletes and just delivering the most positive message we could. ... Despite the challenges and disappointments, our student-athletes have shown great character throughout this entire process, and I'm really impressed with how they responded to the adversity."

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