By: Julia Terbeche and Madalyn Amato
The Big West Conference announced Friday its return to play protocols for spring sports, including baseball, softball, men’s volleyball and women’s water polo.
“The Big West is excited to take the next step toward spring competition,” Big West Commissioner Dan Butterly said in a statement. “Our focus remains on the health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes and we will continue to evaluate the pandemic’s effect on our ability to provide a safe environment for competition.”
🚨We’ve announced our return to play and scheduling protocols for the spring sports of baseball, softball, men’s volleyball and women’s water polo.
— Big West Conference (@BigWestSports) January 29, 2021
Athletic director Andy Fee said that Long Beach State has a few hurdles to overcome before the Beach can resume play.
“I think we can continue forward, my worry is if somehow suddenly we just have a lot of people getting sick and then we certainly have to look at pausing and making sure that we are doing the right thing,” Fee said. “It’s [going to be a lot of] trying to keep people as safe as we can, understanding that nobody has a magic wand to necessarily keep everybody healthy, but it’s something I think about every day.”
Continued testing, mandated vaccinations and approval from the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services are all requirements that will determine whether or not spring sports can be played on campus.
“We still need the city of Long Beach and public health to finalize our plans and approve them, [but] until they say yes, we will not start practicing the spring sports,” Fee said. “So I don’t know what date spring sports will begin. Hopefully it’s soon, but we’ll just have to wait until the public health officials sign off on it.”
Roger Kirk, director of athletic communications, said that conversation is underway, but this announcement is ” more positive news for our spring sports.”
“We are currently working with the City of Long Beach Health and Human Services department to identify a date for those programs to start team activities, and these conference guidelines will help our coaches and staff finalize our schedules for the coming months,” Kirk said. “Our primary focus remains on the health and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches and staff.”
According to the statement, conference play for baseball will begin on Friday, March 19 and end on Saturday, May 29. The regular season schedule is slated to consist of a four-game weekend series against each conference opponent, the Big West said. While teams may schedule non-conference games prior to the Big West schedule, they may play only one opponent per week once league play officially begins. In addition, the Big West does not allow midweek contests during conference play.
For softball, conference play will also begin on Friday, March 19 and run through Saturday, May 15. Most teams will play a three-game series, with a select few campuses allowed four games. The fourth game will be considered non-conference play. Like baseball, teams are only allowed to meet one time per week and midweek conference play is prohibited.
Men’s volleyball conference play is slated to begin on Thursday, March 11 and end Saturday, April 17, which culminates in the Big West Men’s Volleyball Championship at the University of Hawai’i from April 22 to 24. The 10-match schedule will have a two-game series with one opponent per week. Campuses are allowed a third match but it will be considered to be non-conference play, as with softball.
Conference play for women’s water polo is scheduled to begin Friday, March 12 and end Sunday, April 25, the statement said, and the Big West Women’s Water Polo Championship is set to be held from April 30 to May 2.
Teams can add a second non-conference match against their conference opponent and any conference matches can be played earlier than scheduled if mutually agreed upon by both parties. If teams do decide to move up their contests and want to play again later in the season, the Big West will not count this toward conference standings. Any water polo matches scheduled between conference opponents outside of the predetermined schedule will be considered non-conference.
In addition, championships for men’s and women’s tennis, golf, track and field and women’s beach volleyball are all planned for the spring, the Big West said.
“All institutions will continue adherence to medical and COVID-19 testing protocols established by the Big West Conference based on CDC, NCAA, federal, state and local guidelines,” the statement said. “These schedule formats reflect the changes our Big West administrators, coaches and staff felt were necessary in the face of unprecedented challenges. I applaud their efforts to find solutions that move the Big West forward.”