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Wisconsin athletics: Big Ten fall sports moving to spring, pending final approval

The Division I Board of Directors is the final stop for this proposal, which is expected to pass, moving the 2020 fall championships to the spring of 2021.

2019 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Wednesday was a huge day around the Big Ten conference in terms of getting sports set up to play this fall. College football will be back in B1G cities from Nebraska to New Jersey to Mississippi starting on Oct. 24 and men’s and women’s college basketball has a new start date of Nov. 25. As far as the rest of the athletic department goes it is looking like the rest of the fall sports will be played in the spring.

The Division 1 Council is passing this recommendation along to the Division 1 Board of Directors for their approval: “After a thorough review, the recommendations were made by the Division I Competition Oversight Committee for men’s cross country, women’s cross country, field hockey, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and men’s water polo. The adjustments are being made due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“The plan gives maximum opportunities to fall student-athletes to participate in NCAA championships, while preserving access to conferences through automatic qualifications,” said Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at the University of Pennsylvania.

For team sports the championship brackets will be filled at 75 percent of their normal capacities and for any team that plays in the fall (for instance volleyball in the SEC) will count toward selection into that respective championship in the spring.

Here are the guidelines for each of the sports that the Wisconsin Badgers will be participating in this spring:

Cross country

The Division I men’s and women’s championships are scheduled for March 15. However, there is some concern in the membership about conducting cross country, indoor track and field, and outdoor track and field in the spring term.

The Division I Competition Oversight Committee will continue to evaluate the issue.

For now, 255 runners from each gender will compete at the cross country finals site.

Regular-season competition could be conducted Jan. 30-March 6, with championships selections on March 7.

Men’s soccer

Action at the finals site for the Men’s College Cup is May 13-17. The bracket will consist of 36 teams, with 24 automatic qualifiers and 12 at-large selections.

The normal bracket size for the sport is 48, with four teams advancing to the finals site.

Regular-season competition can be played Feb. 3-April 24, with selections on April 25.

Women’s soccer

Action at the finals site for the Women’s College Cup is May 13-17. The bracket will consist of 48 teams, with 31 automatic qualifiers and 17 at-large selections.

Normally, the bracket size for the women’s soccer championship is 64 teams, with four teams advancing to the finals site.

Regular-season competition can be played Feb. 3-April 24, with selections on April 25.

Women’s volleyball

The finals site of the championship is scheduled for April 23-25, with a 48-team bracket. Thirty-two of the teams will be automatic qualifiers, with 16 at-large selections.

The normal bracket size for the championship is 64 teams.

Regular-season play will span from Jan. 22-April 10, with selections April 11.

And here are the adjusted playing/practicing rules that the NCAA is planning to adopt:

  • Allow a school to break up the fall segment into multiple segments of the playing season.
  • Prohibit practice during finals (and the week prior) at the conclusion of the fall term if a team is “in-season” but not competing.
  • Require a break prior to the start of the spring championship segment.
  • Allow schools to extend their seasons past the NCAA championship date in that sport but require seasons to end at or before the end of the school’s academic year.
  • Exempt non-NCAA championship postseason competitions that occur outside the playing season.
  • Prohibit midyear enrollees from competing in the 2020-21 academic year.

At Wisconsin, all Badgers sports will follow the same protocols of daily rapid testing and cardiac monitoring that were established for football, UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said.

According to Todd Milewski of, volleyball head coach Kelly Sheffield said “I think they’d be overthinking it, quite honestly, if they moved it” back to the fall. Sheffield also mentioned how the short turnaround time between a spring championship and the following season in the fall isn’t as big of a deal as it is for contact sports like football.

It is definitely a letdown that we won’t get to see the volleyball team defend their conference title this fall or watch the women’s soccer team try and break through the Sweet 16 barrier, but hopefully they will get a full and fulfilling season in the spring and we can watch them kick ass then.