Mid-American Conference first Division I league to postpone season

Mid-American Conference first Division I league to postpone season
The Mid-American Conference became the first Division I league to postpone its fall schedule. (Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Mid-American Conference became the first Division I league to postpone its entire fall sports season, a measure taken because of the coronavirus pandemic.

League presidents voted unanimously for the postponement after meeting Saturday morning, ESPN reported. Earlier this week, the University of Connecticut became the first Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) program to cancel its season.

In a video conference with reporters, MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said “that in the future, when people look back at the year 2020 for intercollegiate athletics, it will be remembered as ‘annos horribilis’ -- which is Latin for ‘horrible year.‘”

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The 12-member conference schools will postpone their cross country, field hockey, football, men’s soccer, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball programs.

“Clearly we are charting a conservative path -- and it is one that has been recommended by our medical advisory group,” Steinbrecher said. “There are simply too many unknowns for us to put our student-athletes in situations that are not clearly understood. We have traditionally been a leader on student-athlete well-being issues. This has not been an easy decision. For the Mid-American Conference, it is the right decision.”

“The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and athletics support staff remain Ohio University’s top priority in the midst of the global health crisis,” Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis told WHIO. “We are extremely proud of our student athletes and their tremendous accomplishments both in the classroom and on the field of play. We recognize the disappointment that will be felt by the Bobcat nation this fall but it is our hope that we will be able to cheer on the OHIO Bobcats in the spring if it is safe to do so.”

The MAC built a distinctive brand name -- #MACtion -- and got national exposure by agreeing to play football games on ESPN on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

Conference officials previously met Thursday to finalize the league’s scheduling format, Sports Illustrated reported. Northern Illinois president Lisa Freeman reportedly advocated postponing play and even said her school would opt out independently due to COVID-19 concerns, the magazine reported.

“I’m crushed by this decision. I am so disappointed,” Steinbrecher said. “It’s just crushing that we can’t facilitate the opportunities this fall because of circumstances around us. I’m heartbroken on that. The flip side is I take comfort, and I would say our presidents take comfort, and I assume all others that we’re making decisions for the right reasons.”

Division III schools already announced the postponement of their fall football seasons with an eye toward making them up in the spring.