The Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference announced Monday the cancellation of competition and championships for the fall sports seasons due to ongoing developments related to the coronavirus pandemic.
In conjunction with the WIAC announcement, UW-Platteville will not compete in conference or non-conference competitions for the 2020 fall season.
“My heart goes out to all the student-athletes across the nation, not just in Wisconsin,” said UW-Platteville Associate Athletic Director and head football coach Mike Emendorfer. “All sorts of teams from every different level are being affected by this. But, the safety and well-being of the student-athletes and staff is the top priority when it comes to cancelling sports. I’ve been a part of fall football for 40 years as a player and coach, and my heart goes out to them all.
“We sort of anticipated this, but when the news came out it was just disappointing,” he continued. “I understand the decision, absolutely, we’re just disappointed these kids won’t get the chance to compete in fall sports.”
The eight-team league also includes UW-Eau Claire, UW-La Crosse, UW-Oshkosh, UW-River Falls, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Stout and UW-Whitewater. The Heart of America Athletic Conference (which contains Clarke University) recently announced plans to move forward with its fall seasons, while the American Rivers Conference (which includes Loras College and University of Dubuque) is expected to announce its official decision this week.
The announcement impacts seven UW-Platteville fall programs — men’s and women’s cross country, football, women’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball. Of those sports, only women’s golf will play the WIAC season and championship in the spring, while the rest have been completely canceled for the 2020-21 academic year.
“Things are moving pretty quickly since the news came out and now we’re looking at what we can do in the 114 practices or meetings that we can do through the year to get ready for 2021,” said Emendorfer, who completed his 21st season leading the football program last fall. “Our focus is always going to be on the person, the football player and the student. So they know that we support them in their academics, making sure they’re taking the right classes to graduate and getting excited to get back on the football field in 2021.”
According to a press release from the WIAC, institutions will retain the autonomy to establish practice opportunities within the limitations stipulated by the NCAA throughout the 2020-21 academic year. Any practice opportunities or competitions must be conducted in accordance with NCAA re-socialization guidelines in effect at that time, in addition to any mandated restrictions imposed by local, county or campus entities.
“Our staff will continue to enhance the student-athlete experience during each student-athlete’s academic term at UW-Platteville,” said UW-Platteville Director of Athletics Kristina Navarro in a released statement. “Each team’s coaching staff is working very diligently to plan the fall practice schedule and head coaches will be reaching out to student-athletes in the near future to convey report dates and fall plans.
“I want to reassure our student-athletes, parents and supporters that Chancellor (Dennis) Shields and I are committed to the long-term success of Pioneer Athletics and we will continue to invest in the development of our current student-athletes during challenging times all while keeping the safety and well-being of the entire UW-Platteville community in the forefront. We will also continue to invest in the personal and professional development of our staff and coaches.”
Determinations regarding the WIAC winter sports seasons — including the start date and the manner in which competition will be conducted — will be determined at a later date, according to the release. But with the current state of COVID-19 cases moving in the wrong direction, even that is hard to predict.
“Winter sports will be the next objective,” Emendorfer said. “None of us predicted the spike in numbers. We thought they’d level off and go down. When it increased in July, that worried a lot of us. With winter sports, if they can play, we need that. When we can get back to the point of having people in the stands enjoying athletics, that’s where you’ll really see the appreciation for what sports can do for everyone involved.”