Following a Friday evening meeting of the Great American Conference Council of Presidents, the league has suspended all fall and winter sports – basketball, cross country, football, soccer and volleyball – and the two-semester sports of golf and tennis through Dec. 31, 2020.
"Our foremost responsibility relative to the suspension of intercollegiate competition in the Great American Conference is to our Wonder Boys and Golden Suns student-athletes," said Dr. Robin E. Bowen, ATU president. "Coaches and staff in the ATU Department of Athletics will be in communication with our student-athletes and support them as they process this information. Our dedication to the academic and personal success of our student-athletes remains unchanged, and I am confident that Coach Davis, our coaching staff, our athletic staff and others who support the Wonder Boys and Golden Suns will ensure that our student-athletes feel our unwavering commitment to their well-being in the days and weeks to come.
“Intercollegiate athletics are an integral aspect of Arkansas Tech University’s mission of student access and student success," continued Bowen. "The suspension of intercollegiate competition is a disappointment to our university as a whole. Game days bring our students and our community together as one, and our student-athletes create a great sense of pride in our university through their achievements in competition, in the classroom and in community service. I hope and believe that we will resume intercollegiate competition alongside our fellow GAC members in spring 2021. We will overcome COVID-19 and we will look forward to the day when we can cheer the Wonder Boys and the Golden Suns to become conference champions once more.”
The council made its recommendation in response to last week’s directive from the NCAA Board of Governors regarding additional requirements as well the cancellation of 2020 NCAA Division II Fall Championships.
"I'm disappointed for our student-athletes, coaches, and communities,” said Will Prewitt, GAC commissioner. “Our membership’s presidents and athletic administrators did not arrive at this difficult decision lightly. Our hopes and work to date have been to proceed with fall competition following federal and state health guidance. However, recent decisions by the NCAA Board of Governors make this possibility unrealistic. We now turn our focus as a conference on how to best support our student-athletes during this challenging time and craft options that will allow them to experience meaningful and safe competition during spring 2021."
All NCAA athletic-related activities (in all GAC sports), including in-season practices, out-of-season practices, weight training, team athletically related meetings and voluntary workouts led by staff or in institutional facilities shall be permitted this fall based on each institution’s ability to comply with the recent NCAA Board of Governors directive.
"The suspension of our fall and winter sports through Dec. 31 is a heartbreak for all of us,” said Dr. Bruce McLarty, Harding University president and GAC Council of Presidents chairman. “Our athletes and college athletics are important to every GAC campus. The presidents are continuing our work to ensure that our student-athletes have a great college experience this year, in spite of the challenges we are facing."
The GAC will continue to evaluate NCAA, federal, state and local developments and will provide updated revisions as further information becomes available. The league will announce revised schedules at a later date.
"The decision made today by leadership within the Great American Conference to suspend fall competition until Dec. 31 was not made lightly and came to its conclusion with the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches and athletic staff at the forefront," said Abby Davis, ATU interim director of athletics. "We share the same sadness, disappointment and empathize with our affected student-athletes. Each one of our Wonder Boys and Golden Suns are special and we will continue to place the highest value possible on the health and well-being of them, our coaches and athletic staff. We remain steadfast in our support of the leaders in the GAC in continuing to find a path for all sports to return to competition in a safe and healthy environment. We will also continue to adhere to the CDC, state and local guidelines."