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Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

NCAA Council Proposes Spring Start Date for Volleyball, Other Fall Sports

September 21, 2020

Big Ten football is readying for an Oct. 24 return to play, now what about volleyball and the rest of fall sports?

Those will, in all likelihood, still have to wait until spring. The NCAA Division I Council approved a handful of proposals from the Division I Competition Oversight Committees in individual sports that set dates for championships and limited postseason tournament brackets in team sports to 75% of normal capacity.

For volleyball, typically a 64-team tournament, that means 48 teams will qualify including 32 automatic qualifiers and 16 at-large selections. Last season, six teams from the Big Ten made the tournament as an at-large selection, including Nebraska.

Regular season play in volleyball will begin Jan. 22 and conclude April 10 with tournament selections made the following day. The NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship is scheduled for April 23–25.

That event was slated for Omaha in 2020, but at this early stage all championship sites are to be determined.

That timeline is earlier in the spring semester than a proposal forwarded by the Big Ten volleyball coaches. Nebraska coach John Cook, long a proponent of spring volleyball, told Hail Varsity in August that the Big Ten coaches outlined a season that would start in March and conclude in May. A key consideration with that proposal was to allow volleyball to ramp up as the men’s basketball tournament was winding down, offering volleyball a rare chance in the spotlight.

“You’re competing with football,” Cook said of one of the drawbacks to playing in the fall. “The Big Ten Conference is awesome with getting us Wednesday night volleyball and even Saturday night volleyball on TV, but once basketball starts and football’s going in November, volleyball disappears. So let’s do it in the spring when we’d have less competition for TV.”

Cook, who proposed spring volleyball at an American Volleyball Coaches Association meeting more than a decade ago, also noted difficulties with finding lodging in some cities during football season and that the sport, which often relies on freshmen to play right away, would benefit if those players had a semester to acclimate to college life.

“These freshmen come in and we’re playing,” Cook said. “Why not give them the whole fall to prepare to get to play?”

Regular-season competition in women’s soccer is scheduled to begin Feb. 3 and end April 24 with the championship May 13–17.

The men’s and women’s cross country championship is scheduled for March 15, though the Council noted there is some concern about the overlap between cross country and track and field.

The NCAA Division I Board of Directors will vote on the proposal next week.

“While no one wanted to see fall championships impacted by the pandemic, the Competition Oversight Committee put a thoughtful proposal in front of the Council which was resoundingly endorsed.  We believe we have an appropriate and considerate plan to move fall championship events to the spring, and I look forward to presenting this plan to the Board of Directors next week,” said Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Pennsylvania. “The plan gives maximum opportunities to fall student-athletes to participate in NCAA championships, while preserving access to conferences through automatic qualifications.”

Earlier on Wednesday, the Counil also announced Nov. 25 as the start date for men’s and women’s basketball.

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