North Texas is pushing back the start of its fall sports season to at least Sept. 1 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a move that will impact both its soccer and volleyball teams.
UNT announced the decision late Wednesday after notifying schools its teams were scheduled to play in August. The Denton Record-Chronicle was the first to report the decision earlier in the day.
The UNT soccer team will now open its regular season on Sept. 3 at home against Texas Tech. The Mean Green were set to play five games in August.
The UNT volleyball team was scheduled to play an exhibition match before hosting the North Texas Invitational, a four-team event, Aug. 28-29. The Mean Green are now tentatively scheduled to open their season in a tournament at Baylor from Sept. 3-5.
The decision to push back the start of fall sports won’t affect the UNT football team that is set to open its season at home on Sept. 5 against Houston Baptist.
“We believe synchronizing the start times of our fall sports will give us the best opportunity for success and for having as much information as possible before competitions occur on campus,” UNT athletic director Wren Baker said in a statement announcing the move. “This is obviously a fluid and unprecedented situation that will require patience from all of us. Our hope is that we will be able to reschedule some of the contests for a later date. We will keep fans updated as schedules change.”
The Big Ten and Pac-12 have already canceled nonconference play in multiple sports, including football. The AAC announced earlier Wednesday that it will also delay the start of Olympic sports to Sept. 1.
UNT’s soccer team was scheduled to play an exhibition at Texas on Aug. 14 and a game at Baylor on Aug. 20. Both games are among those that will have to be rescheduled or canceled.
The Mean Green lost a home game against Colorado that was scheduled to be played in September due to the Pac-12’s decision. Hawaii canceled a game at UNT due to travel concerns related to COVID-19.
Pushing back the start of fall sports is the latest move UNT has made in the interest of student and fan safety during the pandemic. The school shut down its campus in March.
UNT began bringing its athletes and athletic department staff back to campus in early June. The school now has five teams back on campus preparing for the start of the fall season. UNT’s football team was the first to report.
The school’s soccer and volleyball teams, as well as its men’s and women’s basketball teams, have since reported to campus.
“We are all trying to be really safe right now,” UNT soccer coach John Hedlund said. “What you are going to see is more and more conferences go to Sept. 1 as their starting date.”
The school’s move to delay fall sports extends the drought in Mean Green athletics caused by the pandemic.
Conference USA called off its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments after the opening round on March 12. The league canceled spring sports and spring football practices for member schools a short time later.
UNT’s soccer and volleyball programs are among the first to open their seasons each fall. The question now for UNT is the status of its football season, particularly the nonconference portion of the slate.
The SWAC postponed fall sports on Monday, adding to the number of nonconference football games C-USA teams have lost due to the pandemic.
Louisiana Tech lost a home game against SWAC member Prairie View A&M, while Southern Miss lost a home game against Jackson State due to the decision.
UNT’s nonconference football schedule is still intact. The Mean Green are set to face Texas A&M of the SEC as well as SMU and Houston of the AAC to round out nonconference play after facing Houston Baptist, a member of the Southland Conference.
UNT’s games against Texas A&M and SMU are important to the financial health of the program.
UNT is set to earn a $1.25 million guarantee for playing at Texas A&M. Games against SMU typically draw some of the biggest crowds at Apogee Stadium. The 29,519 fans UNT drew for its 2018 game against SMU rank as the third largest in the history of the venue that opened in 2011.
C-USA officials are monitoring other leagues across the country and discussing the best course of action as the number of nonconference games its teams are scheduled to play dwindles.
“We are continuing to discuss with our membership, but no decisions have been made,” C-USA Commissioner Judy MacLeod said in a statement provided to the Record-Chronicle shortly after the Big Ten and Pac-12 announcements earlier this month. “We are receiving advice from medical experts and examining all options.”