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Other than football, Big Ten fall sports appear to be on track for spring

Other than football, Big Ten fall sports appear to be on track for spring

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Badgers Women's Volleyball Team Beats Baylor in National Semifinals

The Badgers celebrate after defeating Baylor in four sets in the NCAA semifinals last December.

Football is back on the fall schedule at the University of Wisconsin but it doesn't appear that competition will resume so quickly for other fall sports.

Athletic director Barry Alvarez said Wednesday that he didn't see Badgers volleyball, soccer and cross country teams returning to a fall schedule this year.

Later Wednesday, the NCAA Division I Council voted to move those sports seasons to the second semester because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on college athletics.

"I think they'll stay that way," Alvarez said.

After more than a month of pulling from multiple directions following the postponement of the fall season, the Big Ten on Wednesday announced that football games will begin the weekend of Oct. 23-24.

Commissioner Kevin Warren said the Big Ten will start discussing the path forward for other fall sports on Thursday. In a statement, the conference said updates on seasons for winter sports basketball, hockey, swimming and diving and wrestling will come shortly.

"We felt from a logistical standpoint, from an operational standpoint, that we needed to button down football," Warren said. "Because, one, with the number of student-athletes there, we figured once we got that solved then being able to apply those same policies, procedures and protocols with the other sports will be straightforward."

Also Wednesday, the Division I Council approved a Nov. 25 start date for the men's and women's basketball seasons. That's a 15-day delay from the original schedule and allows teams to start playing the day before Thanksgiving.

After NCAA hockey conferences last week announced an indefinite hold for the start of the women's and men's seasons — typically scheduled for late September and early October, respectively — coaches and administrators said a resolution for Big Ten football questions was a large factor in their sport's plans.

All Badgers sports will follow the same protocols of daily rapid testing and cardiac monitoring that were established for football, UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said.

When the Big Ten originally shut down all fall sports competition on Aug. 11 because of concerns over testing and cardiac health connected to the coronavirus, the prospect of a rescheduled spring season raised potential complications.

Coaches weren't sure they would have all of their players in school for the second semester. Some on the Badgers men's and women's soccer teams planned to graduate in December.

Still, UW volleyball coach Kelly Sheffield said Wednesday that he would have been surprised if the NCAA went away from a new plan to play this season between January and April.

The Big Ten had to get football into a fall schedule to compete for spots in the College Football Playoff and to space out the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Volleyball's championship is moving to the spring and time between seasons isn't as much of a concern in volleyball, Sheffield said.

"I think they'd be overthinking it, quite honestly, if they moved it" back to the fall, he said.

The volleyball season will run from Jan. 22 to April 10, with the NCAA tournament finishing April 23-25. The traditional field of 64 will be limited to 48 this season, with 32 conference champions earning automatic qualifiers and space for 16 at-large teams.

Men's and women's soccer will culminate May 13-17 after a season that can begin Feb. 3. The women's field was scaled back from 64 to 48 (31 automatic bids) and the men's field shrunk from 48 to 36 (24 automatic bids).

The cross country season can begin Jan. 30, and the championship with 255 runners per gender is scheduled for March 15.

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