Sports

Mars Hill University is postponing all fall sports seasons amid COVID pandemic concerns

Photograph by Dave Adamson

Mars Hill – Don’t look for any football from the Mars Hill Lions this fall. The university announced today that all fall sports are postponed, with plans to compete during the spring semester. 

Asked about clarifying on the postponement annoucement, Mike Thirnhill, Director of Communications at MHU said, “’Postpone until spring’ means we won’t compete in those sports during their regularly scheduled fall seasons but plan to do so during the spring semester if conditions allow it.” He did not say how scheduling would work with the spring sports.

According to a press release from the school, “The decision comes following a meeting and vote this morning of the South Atlantic Conference (SAC), in response to numerous mandates passed down from the NCAA on Wednesday. For Mars Hill, this announcement affects men’s and women’s cross country, football, men’s and women’s soccer, and volleyball. 

“Until further NCAA clarification can be obtained by the South Atlantic Conference, member schools will suspend all athletics-related activities, including practices, weight training, and voluntary workouts for all sports, until no earlier than September 1. A decision on winter sports will be made later this fall.

“SAC Commissioner Patrick Britz said the decision was a difficult one, ‘but the health and safety of our student-athletes is our number one priority and we feel the decision to postpone our fall seasons is the best for their safety and well-being, and it gives us the best opportunity to play.’

The conference earlier had announced plans to delay fall sports until September 26, but cited the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, coupled with the NCAA last-minute mandates, the SAC felt it was in the best interest of the student-athletes, coaches, administrators, fans, and the campus communities, in general, to postpone to the spring of 2021.

“Obviously, from a competitive standpoint, we’re saddened,” said MHU Athletics Director Rick Baker. “But our student-athletes aren’t here just to be sports competitors. They’re here to learn; to prepare to live a good and productive life after college. And if we need to make some adjustments to our sports seasons in order to help ensure their health and safety, and that of the rest of our campus community, we’re absolutely going to do that.”

Asked how the postponement might affect student-athletes on full- or parttime athletic scholarships, Thornhill said, “This will have no impact on scholarships for those student-athletes. They will retain their scholarshitps, regardless of the status of the competition season.”

Mars Hill student-athletes will remain enrolled in full-time classes. The university will start the fall semester on August 18 with three weeks of remote instruction, with plans to return to campus for in-person learning beginning September 8.

“Our athletes love Mars Hill and love competing for the Blue and Gold,” Baker said. “It will be an aspect of the Mars Hill experience that will be sorely missed this semester, but we know that we must always put the health and safety of our students at the forefront of decision making.”