Aloha ball came early for the University of Hawaii women’s volleyball team.
In a Wednesday announcement that was not surprising but no less emotionally impactful, the 11-member Big West Conference decided to postpone its fall sports seasons. The pandemic-based decision means the Rainbow Wahine volleyball, soccer and cross-country teams will not compete intercollegiately this coming semester. Two-semester sports, such as tennis and golf, also will be restricted from fall competition.
The Big West has yet to decide on what to do with the so-called winter sports, such as men’s and women’s basketball.
The Mountain West, of which UH is a football-only member, is expected to decide on the fate of its fall sports in the next two weeks. UH athletic director David Matlin said the Rainbow Warriors are continuing their supervised workouts that began on July 6. Matlin said the Warriors will delay the opening of training camp from this Friday to early next week. For now, the Warriors’ first game is set for Sept. 26 against Robert Morris at Aloha Stadium.
It appears the Big West decision was based largely on the impact the pandemic has on travel, accommodations and California’s large number of COVID-19 cases. UH is the only Big West school not located in California. “Our competition itself probably is among the safest of any other sport,” said Tim Boyce, UH’s cross-country coach. “But I think all the other reasons are why we’re grouped in with all the other sports in the Big West.”
Matlin said: “I think travel is a big issue. When you look at the Big West, you have 10 schools in California right now. Obviously, California is having a lot of issues with COVID right now. I think that has as much to do with the decision as anything. I think that’s the main reason right now.”
UH, for now, will lose ticket revenue from one of its most popular sports. Volleyball coach Robyn Ah Mow said she was alerted to the Big West decision early Wednesday. She called her staff, then broke the news to the players.
“They’re all bummed,” Ah Mow said. “The seniors are heartbroken.”
Ah Mow assured the players the season was postponed, not canceled, and kept alive the possibility of playing during the spring semester. Ah Mow said she told them: “Just be thankful you’re good, you’re safe, you’re healthy. That’s all you can look forward to each day with all the crazy stuff going on in the world.”
Matlin said there is a “pause” put on the organized training schedule for the fall-sports teams. Players still will be allowed to train on their own on campus.
“Just because you got news your season’s postponed or possibly could be canceled, don’t stop what you’re doing,” Ah Mow told her players. “Just keep doing what you’re doing, and do it to the fullest.”
The Rainbow Wahine will have a better understanding of their options when NCAA officials meet next week to decide on fall championships. The women’s volleyball championship has not been canceled or postponed.
Soccer coach Michele Nagamine had anticipated the Big West would follow the Division II Pac West, which decided last week to postpone its fall sports. Hawaii Pacific, UH Hilo and Chaminade are Pac West members.
“We were pretty devastated to hear the announcement (Wednesday) morning (from the Big West),” Nagamine said. “It wasn’t a surprise at all. I think most people were thinking some kind of postponement would come out. We know the decision was not made lightly and was absolutely made with the best interest of student-athletes in mind. We are supportive of the decision, and we understand.”
Nagamine said three seniors are scheduled to graduate in December. “That makes it a little harder,” Nagamine said of moving the season to the spring. “You’re not asking a student-athlete to consider staying an extra semester but rather a full year. There are a lot of things to discuss.”
Boyce had to deliver bad news once again. UH’s track and field season this spring was canceled because of the pandemic. Most of the cross-country runners also compete for the track team. Boyce had remained hopeful for fall competition. “As the local schools lost their fall sports seasons, and schools that were scheduled to join us for the opening cross-country meet had to pull out, it seemed like it was possible today might come,” Boyce said.
There is a possibility cross country could replace indoor track in the spring. UH also is exploring traveling in team groups, and scheduling doubleheaders involving men’s and women’s volleyball teams to maximize facility use. “We have some time to analyze the best schedule there is,” Matlin said.
Matlin said there are no plans to furlough coaches.
He also said the loss of ticket revenue from volleyball will be offset partially by not having to pay travel subsidies or guarantees to visiting teams.