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Decision on NCAA Division I volleyball tournament faces late August deadline


Decision on NCAA Division I volleyball tournament faces late August deadline

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Texas vs. Nebraska, 12.19.2015

About 17,500 fans watched the NCAA Volleyball Tournament championship match between Nebraska and Texas on Dec. 19, 2015 in Omaha. The 2020 Final Four is again scheduled to be in Omaha.

Journal Star file photo

College volleyball fans in Nebraska should know by the end of the month if the NCAA Tournament will still be on the schedule for the 2020 calendar year.

Omaha is scheduled to host the NCAA Final Four Dec. 17-19. This is the fourth time Omaha has hosted the championship, and once again Nebraska has a projected top-10 ranked team that’s capable of getting there.

The NCAA Board of Governors announced Wednesday morning that each division of the NCAA must determine by Aug. 21 whether their respective fall sports seasons and NCAA championships should occur as scheduled this year. A few hours later, the Division I Board passed the decision on to the Division I Council, which is reportedly meeting next week. NCAA Division II and Division III quickly made the decision to cancel their fall championships.

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The Nebraska volleyball team has now held its first practice of the season with a Wednesday afternoon workout at the Devaney Sports Center.

While there is still a lot of uncertainty about the season, the Huskers are into the normal preseason schedule where they can have two-a-day practices and practice six days per week. But coach John Cook says they’ll ease into training because the players haven’t had long volleyball practices in several months, and they don’t need to rush to get ready for the first match.

“I got to see where they’re at. I have no idea where they’re at,” Cook said.

The team will continue with the same protocols related to COVID-19 that it’s had the past two months, such as temperature checks and a questionnaire about COVID-19 symptoms.

NU associate head coach Tyler Hildebrand has joined the team for the first practice. After being hired by Nebraska in January, Hildebrand continued to work in California with the United States beach volleyball program.

Competition start dates for volleyball in the Big Ten have been postponed through at least Sept. 5. The Big Ten announced Wednesday that conference-only schedules will be released at a later date, as scheduling for the sport remains fluid.

The NCAA Board expressed serious concerns about the continuing high levels of COVID-19 infection in many parts of the nation. The board has determined that it will only support moving forward with fall championships and other postseason play if strict conditions are applied and adhered to.

If the season is played, NCAA championships may use reduced bracketing, predetermined host sites and, where appropriate, single sites to limit exposure to COVID-19.

The number of conferences that announce plans to play volleyball in the fall will be something to watch. If 50% or more of eligible teams in a sport cancel their fall seasons, there will be no fall NCAA championship in that sport in that division. There are about 330 teams in Division I volleyball.

Several conferences have already announced that they will not play volleyball in the fall, including the Big West (including Hawaii), Ivy League, Atlantic 10, America East and Patriot League.

If fall sports championships are postponed in any division, a decision to conduct that championship at a later date will be based upon the scientific data available at that time regarding COVID-19, along with other considerations.

“The first and most important consideration is whether sports can be conducted safely for college athletes,” said Michael V. Drake, chair of the board and University of California system president. “Each division must examine whether it has the resources available to take the required precautions given the spread of COVID-19.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7435 or bwagner@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsWagner.

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