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Big East cancels non-conference schedule for fall sports

The conference is buying time for itself during the COVID-19 pandemic.

St. John’s v Creighton Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The Big East has eliminated non-conference games during its fall sports season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

This decision affects men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey, volleyball, and men’s and women’s cross country. The conference hasn’t decided what to do with basketball — or the rest of winter and springs sports — yet, which doesn’t begin until November.

While fall sports begin in mid to late August, eliminating non-conference games allows the conference to see how virus plays out over the next two months to better inform its decision-making. Some conferences, like the Ivy League, Patriot League and NESCAC, have already canceled all fall sports. There is no consensus from the Power 5 conferences but the Big 10 and Pac 12 will also only play conference games while the ACC and SEC will delay the start of its non-football fall sports.

According to a leaked home schedule from April, UConn men’s soccer was set to host Notre Dame, URI, Monmouth, Syracuse, Dartmouth and Rutgers outside of Big East play. The move to only conference games is also a blow to the field hockey program, which typically plays one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country to make up for the lack of competition in the Big East. The Huskies’ women’s soccer team typically plays a local non-conference schedule with just three games that required a flight in the last four years.

The Big East has already made moves to reduce travel for fall sports teams by moving to a divisional format, where schools will only play the other teams in their respective division. As of now, soccer and field hockey will have a double round robin format within their division, though the loss of a non-conference slate could change that.

UConn typically releases its soccer schedules in early June but that has been delayed do the pandemic. If and when games finally do begin, this will be the Huskies’ first year in their new soccer stadium. Turf was installed back in June and the stands appear to be completed as well, although it seems unlikely fans will be allowed into games this season. In 2019, both the soccer programs were forced to play at the University of Hartford and Dillon Stadium due to the construction of the new on-campus facility.

While UConn’s football program is now independent with the move to the Big East, the Huskies’ schedule has already been affected by pandemic. With the Big 10 and ACC reportedly moving to conference-only formats, UConn will lose four games on its schedule.