On Thursday, eight long days after the first domino fell, the Big East finally got around to making something resembling a decision regarding fall sports in the league. There will be no non-conference action for any of the conference’s fall sports, which includes men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s cross country for Marquette. For cross country, this means that they will have no competition other than the league championships, if in fact that goes off as planned. The decision also includes field hockey for the league, but MU doesn’t sponsor that sport.
Here’s the wording from the press release about where they go next:
No decision is being made at this time regarding BIG EAST fall sports conference competition and championships. In the coming weeks, the BIG EAST will continue to monitor COVID-19 conditions across the country and in BIG EAST communities and will provide further updates on dates and formats as appropriate. All decisions regarding fall conference competition will continue to be guided first and foremost by the health and safety of BIG EAST campuses and their athletics program participants and will be made in accordance with NCAA actions and policies.
In short: “We’re still hoping to have league competition, but hey, who can say?” There’s also a sentence at the end of the press release that says that this decision has nothing to do with the winter and spring sport schedules.
So here’s the deal: The Big East didn’t have a choice here. In fact, this is just confirming that the league had already lost too many non-conference contests.
As we have been tracking over thisaway, there have already been six conferences to adjust their fall sports schedule in one way or another. All of those six leagues have made their decisions public in the last eight days. The Ivy League and Patriot League have both tossed the entirety of their fall calendars. The Big Ten and Pac-12 have both cancelled non-conference action, just as the Big East has done. The ACC and the SEC have suspended all action before September 1st, leaving the door open for rescheduling, but that seems wildly unlikely.
That’s four leagues of opponents that have straight up decided to not play any non-conference matches this fall. One of those — the Big Ten by way of Wisconsin — straight up terminated one match each for Marquette men’s soccer, women’s soccer, and volleyball, at least according to how the non-conference schedules for those sports have gone in the past few seasons. Two more leagues have effectively cancelled a week or two’s worth of non-conference action by hitting the pause button until September 1st. While we don’t know what the schedules actually were for Marquette because nothing was ever announced, it’s clear that we were at least approaching a critical mass of opponents removing themselves from the equation. This is just the Big East electing to toss everything else out the window and solve that problem.
The new problem is that this really didn’t solve anything, or at least didn’t solve much.
Here’s the start dates on Big East play in Marquette’s fall sports in 2019.
Men’s Soccer: September 20th
Women’s Soccer: September 29th
Volleyball: September 25th
Now, to be quite honest, the men’s soccer marker is a little misleading, as Marquette was playing one non-conference match and one league match for four weeks before finally settling into only Big East play for the rest of the regular season. You can mark that as October 1st, give or take. That’s not a perfect match for this year thanks to the round robin regional divisional play that the league is planning on using this fall, but it’s close enough for what we’re trying to accomplish here.
The point is that cancelling non-conference action mostly just bought the league a month of time. That’s all. Relative to the fact that it appears that the coronavirus has roughly a two week timeframe of transmission, four weeks is not a lot of time. Unless everyone suddenly pulls their head out of their ass and starts wearing a mask, commissioner Val Ackerman is going to be announcing the end of all fall sports competition pretty quickly.
And let me tell you this: The Big East usually has the volleyball conference tournament over Thanksgiving weekend. If volleyball’s season gets tossed out, that means at the very least non-conference play for both men’s and women’s basketball go with it. These aren’t independent variables, these are dominoes. One thing affects the next one in the chain.