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WWU’s Pailina Quintana brings the ball upcourt against the full-court pressure of Whitman’s Shaira Young during the first half of a 2019-20 game.

WALLA WALLA, Wash. — As part of its COVID-19 safety plan, Walla Walla University has announced that it will withdraw from the Cascade Collegiate Conference (CCC) schedules for men’s and women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, and men’s soccer for the 2020-21 academic year.

The decision follows careful review by the university’s COVID-19 Response Task Force and Athletics Department, and significant consultation with WWU President John McVay and CCC Commissioner Rob Cashell.

WWU athletes were informed of the decision last weekend, just prior to the conclusion of the university’s fall academic quarter.

“Our primary concern is for the safety and well-being of Walla Walla University students, faculty and staff,” said McVay. “I am disappointed that we are unable to participate in these athletic seasons, as well as so many other cherished WWU activities and traditions. This pandemic is challenging, and we are doing our best to enable our students to continue their academic programs in a safe and supportive environment. While I am disappointed now, I know I join countless others in looking forward to a time when normal activities can resume.”

The women’s volleyball and men’s soccer seasons were already delayed from normal fall competition, and university officials were monitoring closely to determine what might be possible for winter sports like basketball.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect each institution and community differently, and we certainly respect the decision by Walla Walla University to opt out of CCC men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball and men’s soccer for the 2020-2021 season,” stated CCC Commissioner Robert Cashell. “None of these choices come easy, but as a conference we fully support the need for campus leadership to do what they feel is best as we all continue to navigate the situation.”

These teams have not practiced for the last two weeks due to concerns over the number of COVID-19 cases in Walla Walla County, and restrictions seemed likely to continue.

The university’s decision to withdraw from the CCC volleyball, soccer, and basketball schedules is part of a larger effort to solidify plans for academics and student life so that students could be adequately prepared for winter quarter.

“It is increasingly clear to us that aggressive COVID-19 safety measures will still be needed during winter quarter,” says Doug Tilstra, WWU vice president for Student Life. “After reviewing guidance from health and safety experts, noting where we are with local infection spread and anticipating a need for university safety measures well into winter quarter, we felt it was right to make this decision now. We wanted to alert our student-athletes so they would know how to plan.”

Currently, WWU plans to participate in the CCC’s cross-country and golf schedules for this academic year and will begin looking ahead to 2021-2022 seasons for Wolves Athletics.

Members of the teams affected by the withdrawal may remain enrolled in classes and will continue to receive support from the university’s athletic department.

“The Wolves Athletic Department has worked closely with our COVID-19 Response Task Force on a safe restart plan for our program. Throughout the summer and fall quarter, we strove to provide safe means for our student-athletes to train, practice, and play,” says Interim Walla Walla University Athletic Director Paul Starkebaum. “I want to thank the task force for their efforts to evaluate and improve our plans over the last five months.”

“It was disappointing to withdraw from CCC schedules this year,” Starkebaum adds. “Our student-athletes, coaches and athletic staff put in a great effort to adapt to state, county and campus guidelines to serve our teams and keep our campus safe. We will continue to work towards a safe restart of our athletic program.”

Learn more about WWU’s COVID-19 safety plan at wallawalla.edu/coronavirus, and about Wolves Athletics at uwolves.com.

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