No fall sports for Berry College, Oglethorpe University

The Southern Athletic Association, which includes two Georgia schools, has postponed all athletic competition for the fall semester, officials announced late Thursday.

The Atlanta-based NCAA Division III conference said it made the decision due to ongoing concerns about the spread of COVID-19. The conference includes Berry College, located in Rome, and Oglethorpe University, located in Brookhaven.

The SAA is one of several conferences in recent weeks to postpone or alter its schedule as several schools have announced players from their programs have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Morehouse was the first school in Georgia and among the first in the nation to postpone its football season because of health and safety concerns about the disease.

“The highest priority at each institution is the health and well-being of our campus communities, student-athletes, coaches, administrators, and spectators,” SAA Commissioner Jay Gardiner said in a statement. “As the pandemic evolves, the SAA will continue to monitor the situation and intends to resume fall sports competition in early 2021.”

Oglethorpe President Nicholas Ladany said in a statement: “[T]he evidence related to providing adequate health and safety made conducting sporting events not feasible. We, of course, are disappointed, however, we remain steadfast in our commitment to optimizing our university experience for everyone and look forward to a more positive future.”

Oglethorpe’s fall sports include soccer, volleyball and cross-country. The university said a portion of its basketball, golf and tennis seasons will also be altered by the decision.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Berry College said no decisions have been made yet about its winter sports schedule.

“As each campus has developed their plans for the fall semester, the conference studied together how we might sustain our fall athletic competition,” Berry president Stephen Briggs said. “Unfortunately, intercollegiate athletic play is complicated by the intensity of the direct contact that occurs in most fall sports as well as the geographic distances that define our conference. Given the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the southeast, the conference presidents determined there was no effective means to ensure the safety of conference play.”