CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – The Mountain East Conference announced on Thursday the postponement of all fall sports to the spring semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Conference commissioner Reid Amos said that the current health conditions around the country, as well as decisions by the NCAA last week created, “too great of a challenge on too short of a timeline to be able to conduct meaningful competition for our fall sports.”
With this move, it is anticipated that all fall sports will take place in the spring, including a proposal that MEC football teams will play a 5+1 schedule: five “regular season” games, and then an conference championship game for the top two teams.
Glenville State football head coach Mike Kellar, who helped lead the Pioneers to a 7-4 (6-4 conf.) record last year, had this to say on the prospects of a spring season.
“Kids sign up to play ball. They want to practice, they want to get better, they want to play in games. Any time I can play games, you know, as a coach we want to play,” Kellar said. “Playing five games in the spring is better than no games at all. I get to put these kids in five games, and see what they are like under live game type situations. It’s something that, you can’t do that in practice.”
Kellar said that he, unfortunately, wasn’t surprised by Thursday’s news. And even though, ultimately, he’d much rather be playing this fall than having to wait for the spring, he finds some positives in the MEC’s decision.
“I think our league, and our presidents, and our athletic directors, they probably made the best decision,” he said. “The thing that I like about the decision is that we can still work with our athletes this fall, which allows them to develop. I like that we’re getting to play in the spring, five games and have a championship. I think that was a critical component of the plan. And the thing that I probably like the most is that no one loses their eligibility. So this freshman class that we just signed, a year from now — the way I explained it to them last night — was basically this is almost like a preseason for them, and they get to be freshmen all over again.”
And there are a lot of positives for the Pioneers moving forward. Kellar and company are coming off a year in which they exceeded expectations, and enter a recruiting class in which they brought in 55 freshman, according to the head coach. Bringing in a class of that size — and one that Kellar and his coaching staff is excited about — bodes well for the future.
One player that will be taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility is Fairmont State redshirt-freshman quarterback, Connor Neal.
“That’ll help, too, because that’s just more time to see those speed of reps, and things like that. So, I’m just anxious to get ready,” he said.
Neal is one of three quarterbacks on last year’s Fairmont State roster that was entering this fall ready to compete for the starting job. He spent all of last season learning the ropes from two-year starter Takwan Crews-Naylor.
According to Neal, Fairmont State had only gotten three spring practices in prior to everything being shut down in March. A year later, from that time, the Falcons could be gearing up as part of a spring football season.
“You got to make the most of it, and keep working, and be ready for whatever happens with workouts, and maybe the possibility of something in the spring, or next season at the least.”
Meanwhile, the newest full-time member of the MEC — Alderson Broaddus — will have to wait for the spring to play its first season of football in the conference.
Battlers head coach Travis Everhart thinks the season’s move to the spring is positive for his team.
“It gives us the opportunity to get better as a program. Gets to the point where we can get better as a football team from a competitive standpoint and from just a team bonding stand point to where we’re going to know each other. And everybody asks what are you running on offense, what are you running on defense? I’m like well I don’t know because I don’t know our guys well enough to get a great evaluation on them. And I think this fall will give us an opportunity to get to know who our team is,” Everhart said.
Everhart also said his team is all on the same page. They are excited to get to know each other and figure out the team identity.
“It was more worrying about how our kids were going to react to it. But our kids have that full steam ahead mentality right now that you know hey whatever we have to do to make it go and compete everyday in the classroom, with whatever we’re going to be able to do from this point forward, we’re going to get it done,” Everhart said.
The Battlers now await to see if the five-game spring season will occur and who they will face on the gridiron.