8.18 ovc

The Ohio Valley Conference Board of Presidents announced on Friday afternoon that league competition and championships in fall athletic events had been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision affected men's and women's cross country, women's soccer, volleyball, men's and women's golf and men's and women's tennis.

However, it left room for one sport to move forward in the fall.

"OVC football-playing institutions that are able to demonstrate a team’s willingness and readiness to compete based on the NCAA’s Resocialization of Collegiate Sport: Developing Standards for Practice and Competition and the NCAA’s mental health guidance are approved to play up to four non-conference scheduled games," the OVC statement said.

Over the weekend, at least two OVC schools announced they would not take advantage of that opportunity.

Tennessee Tech and Southeast Missouri State officials said their schools would not play this fall.

“Through this whole process,” SEMO Athletic Director Brady Barke explained to the Southeast Missourian, “we have said that if we didn’t feel like we could safely put our student-athletes in a position to compete then we wouldn’t do it. As an institution, President Vargas, Coach Tuke and I have had ongoing conversations. We don’t feel like that is in the best interest of our student-athletes.”

The administration and coaching staff at Tennessee Tech came to the same conclusion.

"For the first time since 1922, Tennessee Tech will not put a team on the field to compete," TTU coach Dewayne Alexander said in a statement on social media. "However, I am more encouraged and optimistic about our football program and the future of our great university than ever before."

Those decisions weren't easy to make for safety and financial reasons.

Tennessee Tech was originally scheduled to play Minnesota, but that game was canceled after the Big 10 called off fall football.

After that, the Golden Eagles picked up two non-conference games against FBS opponents — TCU and Southern Miss — that likely would have netted the school more than half a million dollars.

SEMO was set to play Ole Miss, but that game had to be canceled after the Southeastern Conference went to a league-only schedule. The Redhawks also had a game against Dayton whipped away after the Pioneer League shut down football across its entire conference.

SEMO coach Tom Matukewicz told the Southeast Missourian the school had spoken with "probably 12 schools" in regards to playing this fall, but still decided not to put a team on the field.

“By the time the coaches got the game plan of, ‘We’re going to play Division I football and not get COVID with 18-year-olds,’ that just is not a winnable game,” Matukewicz said. “We were going to try and do something that the (St. Louis) Cardinals can’t get done.

"I’m heartbroken. But that is what leaders do."

SEMO and TTU are the only OVC schools to officially announce they will not play games this fall.

A quick look at the rest of the schedules across the league leaves a lot of question marks.

On the OVC official website, only eight games are listed — three for Austin Peay, two for EKU and one each for Jacksonville State and UT-Martin.

Tennessee State, Eastern Illinois and Murray State currently have no games listed on their official athletic sites or the OVC website.

EKU's administration has been very vocal in its commitment to playing football in the fall.

"Due to logistical, organizational, and other concerns related to a potential spring football season, EKU is continuing to explore all options to play football in the fall," EKU Director of Athletics Matt Roan said in a statement on Friday. "We have been very deliberate in our approach since March. We’ve learned along the way and will continue to learn every day. Our safety protocols are strong. When the time is right, the Colonels will be ready to play!"

EKU is set to open the season on Sept. 3 at home against Western Carolina. The Colonels are then scheduled to travel to West Virginia on Sept. 12 (a game that comes with a $450,000 payout), but their Sept. 19 game Youngstown State has been canceled.

YSU announced on Monday it would not put its football team on the field this fall.

Austin Peay also still has three non-conference games on its schedule. The Governors will play Central Arkansas on Aug. 29, travel to Cincinnati on Sept. 19 and play host to East Tennessee State on Sept. 26.

The only two other games left on the OVC schedule at this point are Jacksonville State and North Alabama (Sept. 12) and UT-Martin at Memphis on Nov. 21.

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