MISENHEIMER — For Pfeiffer University student-athletes, the fall athletic season is finished before it even started.
The USA South Athletic Conference announced July 28 that the entirety of its fall sports conference competition will be postponed until the spring 2021 semester. This decision affects six Pfeiffer Falcons teams: football, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, volleyball, men’s cross country and women’s cross country.
“While our member institutions maintain the freedom to address athletics as they see best on their individual campuses this fall, the NCAA recommendations especially related to testing that came out recently were a real game changer for our 18 conference schools collectively,” Dr. Tom Hart, USA South commissioner, wrote in the conference’s press release.
“We will begin work immediately to develop a strategic plan that allows for fall conference sports competition to return in some capacity in the spring provided public health conditions improve in the coming months.”
As for the major contributing factors to the USA South’s decision, the conference cited a “recent rise in positive COVID-19 cases throughout the USA South’s geographical footprint” as well as the “availability, cost, and feasibility of adequate and consistent testing for student athletes.”
For all the fall sports being postponed, the USA South has confirmed its plans to play as many contests and championship competitions as feasible within the spring semester.
The NCAA recently approved a waiver allowing schools to count their playing seasons in 114 days instead of a specified number of consecutive weeks. This waiver will give institutions added flexibility in their sports seasons during 2020-21, although the future of spring athletics will depend on external factors related to the ongoing pandemic.
Amidst the news of fall sports being postponed, Pfeiffer announced last Friday that its tennis coach, alumnus Kent Whitener, has resigned and taken a head coach position at Catawba College in Salisbury.
Whitener graduated from Pfeiffer in 2005; a decade later, he became head coach of the university’s men’s and women’s tennis programs. For the 2015-16 season, Whitener earned Coach of the Year honors as he led the Falcon men’s team to a Conference Carolinas finals appearance. His team captured the ECAC Division III championship just two years later.
“Kent was a tremendous asset to Pfeiffer and our men’s and women’s tennis programs,” Pfeiffer Director of Athletics Danielle Lafferty wrote in a university press release. “He has a rich history with Pfeiffer as both a successful tennis student-athlete and coach and has created a culture that we know will continue on in breeding successful and well-rounded tennis student-athletes on our campus.”
Whitener’s women’s teams also enjoyed success — his 2016 roster advanced to the Conference Carolinas semifinals and contained several players that earned all-conference accolades (including one Player of the Year award winner).
“It has been an honor to work with the amazing student athletes of the Pfeiffer men’s and women’s tennis program,” Whitener said in the press release. “Each player has given their best effort to represent the tennis program to the highest level and will only be more successful as they continue going forward.”