Great American, Lone Star conferences delay start of athletic practices, games
The Great American Conference and the Lone Star Conference both announced Friday that it will delay the start of all intercollegiate athletic practices and competitions.
The GAC said it will delay practices until the week of Aug. 31 with the hope of beginning play the week of Sept. 28.
"Does it mean we are going to play Sept. 28? No.," said GAC Commissioner Will Prewitt. "Does it mean we are going to exhaust every realistic possibility? Yes."
The GAC, headquartered in Russellville, Arkansas, plays at the NCAA's Division II level with 12 member schools from Arkansas and Oklahoma.
The universities from Oklahoma in the league are East Central in Ada, Oklahoma Baptist in Shawnee, Northwestern in Alva, Southwestern in Weatherford, Southern Nazarene in Bethany and Southeastern in Durant.
The LSC Council of Presidents voted to delay the start of practice for all fall sports to no earlier than Aug. 24. Fall sports competition, if subsequently approved by the conference, will begin no earlier than the week of Sept. 21.
The LSC Council of Presidents will reconvene before the start of the fall season to review updated public health information and any new COVID-19 directives before making a final determination regarding fall sports. The LSC includes Oklahoma Christian in Oklahoma City and Cameron in Lawton.
The GAC's Council of Presidents on Friday unanimously approved its plan to delay athletics also to allow more time to determine the best course of action. As of now, teams will play current GAC schedule grids if play resumes in late September.
The GAC will formulate a plan to reschedule those games not played on the existing schedule — as well as the format for fall conference postseason events — following NCAA Division II action on the status of fall championships.
“This plan creates additional time to craft a safe and meaningful championship season for our student-athletes,” Prewitt said.
On a Zoom media conference call Friday, Prewitt discussed the possibility of playing a "split schedule" with the football games postponed at the beginning of the season being rescheduled in the spring.
"I think that idea garnered a pretty good amount of support today (at the meeting of the Council of Presidents), Prewitt said. "If spring is an option, we definitely want to use the spring to give our student athletes every opportunity to complete a 10-game schedule."
The conference hasn't made a decision about whether fans will be allowed when GAC athletic competitions resumes, Prewitt said.
"We have a list of things we are trying to determine right now and that is on the list," he said.
Possible state COVID-19 mandates from Arkansas and Oklahoma could exclude or limit the number of fans in attendance, Prewitt said.
Schools might be able to have cheerleaders and bands at football games, but it's very unlikely that they would be allowed on the field, he said.