SYRACUSE – The State University of New York Athletic Conference will split into two divisions in the sports of men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball for the 2020 athletic season, while women’s tennis will move its entire conference schedule and championship to the spring of 2021.
The decision was made by the SUNYAC Board of Directors that is comprised of the athletic directors from each member institution on June 15, during its weekly conference meeting.
Using Interstate 81 as a rough roadmap, the SUNYAC will divide into an East-West configuration using a double round-robin format in soccer and volleyball with teams playing contests on Wednesdays and Saturdays starting Sept. 30.
Geneseo will feature in the West Division, joining Brockport, Buffalo State, Fredonia and Oswego. The East Division will include Cortland, New Paltz, Oneonta, Plattsburgh and Potsdam.
“The reality is that no playbook exists for conducting intercollegiate athletics during a pandemic,” Tom DiCamillo, commissioner of the SUNYAC, said. “So, like everyone else, we paused by cancelling our spring sports, collected our breath, and then began identifying the challenges of how to move forward.”
According to DiCamillo, the first two major hurdles to address are the health and safety of student-athletes and staff while competing in intercollegiate athletics, and the reality that athletic departments will need to reduce their financial footprint on their campuses.
Splitting into two divisions significantly reduces the health and safety risks by eliminating most overnights in hotel rooms and reduces travel costs for most of the institutions. The conference will continue to develop its plan on how to safely travel and compete, and will continue its discussions on other conference sports for the foreseeable future.
“As a conference, we need to be proactive and use the best information available to make plans for the fall,” DiCamillo said. “However, if we have learned anything from this experience, it is that these are plans, the situation is fluid, and we need to take very methodical steps while being flexible – which is why we addressed the four fall sports with conference schedules first.”
Teams will play home-and-home divisional contests with the top two teams in each division securing a playoff berth. Institutions still have the autonomy to schedule non-conference opponents at their discretion, while members of the two divisions potentially could schedule non-conference crossover contests against each other that would have no impact on the SUNYAC standings.
The playoff format will continue using the Wednesday-Saturday timeline with the semifinals for all three sports scheduled on Nov. 4 and the championships played on Nov. 7. The semifinals will feature crossover contests with the second seed facing the top seed of the opposite division.
The conference is working on a plan on who would host the championship contest in the East-West format, and is modifying its tiebreaker system to accommodate the new setup.
Women’s tennis is sponsored by eight of the 10 SUNYAC-member institutions (Buffalo State and Potsdam do not offer the sport) and by competing in the spring will align with the NCAA Championships. At this time there is no plan to split the eight teams into two divisions.
“Women’s tennis is unique in the fact that the NCAA allows it to compete in the fall and the spring, with the national championship being contested in the spring,” DiCamillo said. “Like some conferences, the SUNYAC traditionally has conducted its season in the fall because of better weather; however, the conference champion would then have to wait until the spring to play for an NCAA title.”
At the time of publication, the conference schedule, championship schedule and alignment for SUNYAC field hockey and and SUNYAC men’s and women’s cross country will remain the same for the Fall 2020 season. Winter and spring sports currently remain unchanged as well.