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NEC Announces Fall Sports Return To Play Plan

NEC Announces Fall Sports Return To Play Plan

Somerset, NJ – The Northeast Conference Council of Presidents today announced the NEC Fall Sports Return to Play Plan set to commence during the 2021 spring semester. These recommendations, which call for both regular season and championship elements, were developed in conjunction with conference and institutional athletic administrators, the NEC Sport Management Committee and the NEC COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee.

Given the challenges, uncertainties and logistics related to COVID-19, the following set of guiding principles helped determine the best approach in developing fall-to-spring competition models: 

  • The health and safety of campus and conference communities remains the NEC's top priority
  • Decision-making around the resumption of sports will be informed by campus policies; local state and national guidance/policies; and NCAA guidance/policies
  • The conference will strive to provide as meaningful as possible competitive experiences given the COVID-19 challenges facing our institutions
  • An emphasis will be placed on minimizing the impact on spring sport student-athletes
  • Establish regular-season start dates that allow fall sport student-athletes to return to campus for the spring semester in the same time frame as the general student population
  • Reduce travel costs, whenever possible, during the regular season and postseason
  • Institutions will be provided the discretion to schedule non-conference competition prior to the start of the NEC season

Each fall sport aside from cross country will conduct a modified conference regular season schedule followed by a one-game NEC playoff between the top two seeds to decide the conference's NCAA automatic qualifier. The NCAA Board of Directors announced in September its plan to shift 2020 fall sport championships to the 2021 spring semester.

"Today is the culmination of a long journey to provide our fall student-athletes with the opportunity to once again experience the joy and exhilaration of NEC competition," said NEC Commissioner Noreen Morris. "While the season may look different and we need to be prepared to adapt along the way, I applaud the NEC Council of Presidents, conference administrators and medical staff, and coaches in their unwavering commitment to create a healthy and safe competitive environment. I admire the sacrifice, dedication and resilience of our student-athletes during these uncertain times, and hope to be there when we crown NEC champions this spring!"

The decision to participate in all or some of the fall sports in the spring will be made at the discretion of each NEC institution. 

Acknowledging the need for flexibility, the following regular season and championship sport formats are subject to reevaluation by the Presidents as the conference monitors health crisis data, along with updated COVID-19 guidance from federal, state, local and campus levels.

CROSS COUNTRY

  • NEC Men's & Women's Cross Championships are scheduled for Saturday, February 27th hosted by Bryant
  • Makeup date in the case of inclement weather is Friday, March 5th
  • NEC men's and women's individual champions will automatically qualify for the NCAA Championship this year

FOOTBALL

  • Teams will play a 4-game conference schedule starting on March 5-7, 2021
  • Games will take place on Sundays or midweek
  • NEC Championship game will be contested on April 16 or 17 with the No. 1 seed hosting the No. 2 seed to determine the conference's automatic qualifier to the FCS playoffs

FIELD HOCKEY

  • Teams will play 7 conference matches in a single round-robin format over 5 weeks from March 15 to April 12
  • Matches will be played on Monday/Thursday
  • NEC Championship match will be contested the week of April 19-24 with the No. 1 seed hosting the No. 2 seed to determine the conference's automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament

MEN'S SOCCER

  • Teams will play 8 conference matches in a single round-robin format over 7 weeks from February 22 to April 8
  • Matches will be played on Monday/Thursday
  • NEC Championship match will be contested the week of April 12-18 with the No. 1 seed hosting the No. 2 seed to determine the conference's automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament

WOMEN'S SOCCER

  • Team will play 9 conference matches in a single round-robin format over 7 weeks from February 23 to April 9
  • Matches will be played on Tuesday/Friday
  • NEC Championship match will be contested the week of April 12-18 with the No. 1 seed hosting the No. 2 seed to determine the conference's automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament

WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL

  • Teams will play 14 conference matches over seven weeks from February 16 to March 31
  • Each institution will play seven opponents in a same-day doubleheader format
  • Matches will be played on Tuesdays from February 16 to March 2, and on Wednesdays from March 10 to March 31
  • NEC Championship match will be contested the week of April 2-4 with No. 1 hosting No. 2 to determine the conference's automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament

About The Northeast Conference

Now in its 40th anniversary season, the Northeast Conference is an NCAA Division I collegiate athletic association consisting of 10 institutions of higher learning located throughout seven states. Media coverage of the NEC extends to a number of the largest markets in the United States - New York (#1), Boston (#9), Baltimore (#26), Hartford/New Haven (#33) and Providence (#53). Founded in 1981 as the basketball-only ECAC Metro Conference, the NEC has grown to sponsor 24 championship sports for men and women and now enjoys automatic access to 16 different NCAA Championships. NEC member institutions include Bryant, Central Connecticut, Fairleigh Dickinson, LIU, Merrimack, Mount St. Mary's, Sacred Heart, St. Francis Brooklyn, Saint Francis U and Wagner. For more information on the NEC, visit the league's official website (www.northeastconference.org) and digital network (www.necfrontrow.com), or follow the league on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat, all @NECsports.