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CIAA will not play football this spring, and basketball season will not start until early January
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CIAA will not play football this spring, and basketball season will not start until early January

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The CIAA, whose members include Winston-Salem State, will not play football games this spring.

The league also announced Friday that basketball season wouldn't start until Jan. 9, 2021. That's when the first game will be allowed to be played, according to a release from the conference.

League chancellors and presidents were scheduled to vote Thursday night to determine how many conference games would be played this spring, according to one source.

“Instead of voting on that, they decided to not play football at all this spring,” the source said.

The conference said in a release that cross country will not have a championship this spring, along with football. Women's volleyball, however, will have a spring championship after not competing this fall.

Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams of the CIAA said in a statement: “Although unfortunate and unprecedented circumstances this year will prohibit athletic seasons for some, we remain committed to bolstering opportunities that amplify the experiences of our student-athletes, member institutions, partners and fans.”

Chancellor Elwood Robinson of WSSU said in a statement it was a tough decision for the presidents and chancellors of the CIAA to make.

“The decision to cancel football and cross country for the remainder of this school year was tough for us to make, but given the science of coronavirus, it was the best decision in the interest of the safety of our student-athletes," Robinson said in a statement. "Yes, we are all disappointed, and fully recognize how disheartening this is for our athletes. We know sports are at the heart of the college experience, and this is yet another difficult change our students must face."

McWilliams couldn't be reached for further comment. The only sentence in the news release that mentions football said it will not sponsor a championship this spring.

In July, the conference conference pulled the plug on fall sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hope was to play those fall sports in the spring, but football will not be played.

Robert Massey, the interim head coach of the Rams, held a Zoom meeting to tell this players and then had an in-person meeting with his eight seniors.

"That was the toughest," Massey said. "Those eight seniors are going to graduate and you hate that their careers are over. Now, we left it open if they do want to come back but like I told them the most important thing is they are going to graduate."

Massey said it was tough on the freshmen as well.

"I just told them this is a life lesson and you guys are new to college altogether," Massey said. "It's a tough thing knowing we won't have a season at all in the spring, but we'll be OK and we just have learn more about this virus and keep moving on."

Massey said that the Rams will have their normal practices this spring with an interasquad game.

"We were told we can have our normal spring practices and that's what we'll do," Massey said. "We just have to make the best of this, even though it's really disappointing."

A veteran head football coach from the CIAA said he was going to be breaking the news to his team via Zoom at around 2:30 on Friday afternoon. "That's not going to be pleasant because we were holding out hope we could play games this spring. It's just tough."

One problem that WSSU would have had this spring would have been finding a place to play.

Bowman Gray Stadium shares its use with NASCAR racing, and the contract with the city goes from March 1 through mid-August with Winston-Salem Racing, Inc. If the CIAA would have scheduled a conference season this spring those games would have likely been in March and April. WSSU would have likely had to find a stadium to play in for its home games.

As for basketball, the women's and men's schedule will consist of 16 conference games with a possibility of playing six more non-conference games. However, games can't begin until Jan. 9, 2021. 

All teams must also adhere to a uniform COVID-19 testing and reporting policy prior to each game, according to the CIAA.

“Throughout this process our board and conference staff have been consistent about the safety and well-being of our students and staff being the number one priority,” said Makola Abdullah, the Virginia State president. “Despite some tough decisions, we remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure that all of our membership is in the best possible position for the foreseeable future.”

 

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