East Carolina women’s soccer coach Jason Hamilton will lead an important staff meeting today with a heavy emphasis on options.
Dates have to be fluid because of the COVID-19 pandemic and any changes that may or may not come from the NCAA, American Athletic Conference or ECU, but for now, the Pirates’ women’s soccer preseason is scheduled to start Aug. 3. Classes begin Aug. 10 and ECU hosts Longwood for an exhibition match on campus Aug. 13 for the first sanctioned Pirate contest since college sports were halted in March.
“We’re going to have maybe 10 different plans, and we’ll pick the one they tell us we can use,” said Hamilton, who is entering his third season in charge of the Pirates in the most unique fashion, during a phone interview Monday morning.
The ECU football opener is Aug. 29 versus Marshall at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Voluntary player workouts have begun for the football Pirates.
In soccer, players are still working out remotely as the Pirates have exhibitions scheduled for Aug. 13 and two days later versus Old Dominion, also at Johnson Stadium. The team’s regular season is scheduled to begin with three straight road matches — High Point on Aug. 20, South Carolina on Aug. 23 and VCU on Aug. 27 — before the first home match of the year against William & Mary on Aug. 30.
Communication has been key already, and that will continue, in terms of scheduling.
“So far, not only has everybody said they are a go, but we have actually added a game with (UNC) Wilmington for a second game because their conference did make changes and they lost some games for not having a football program and not rolling out these protocols as early,” Hamilton said. “Right now we’re set to go as is, but I will anticipate some hiccups and there’s delays and cancellations and all that kind of stuff. That’s all out of out control. We just keep saying to our team to be ready.”
The priority right now is not on games, but getting student-athletes back on campus and tested for COVID-19. The NCAA Division I Council is slated Wednesday to act on an extended preseason model that would allow for earlier athletics-related activities for football and other fall sports.
ECU announced Monday that faculty, staff, students and visitors on campus are expected to wear a face covering, beginning July 1, when in public spaces and in face-to-face meetings, including classrooms and labs.
Football has been a priority, nationally and regionally, in college sports circles. Hamilton said his players are planning to return to campus in the next three or four weeks as part of the Pirates’ phased plan to get all student-athletes back for summer workouts.
“Now that we have football and basketball starting to get back on campus, we’re starting to fine-tune what the process looks like,” he said. “For us, it’s just gathering information and who can we get tested right away and who’s coming to town on what certain day, so they can get tested. ... We need to gauge where people are and help get them where they need to be before we put them at full-go or put anybody in any kind of risk.”
Hamilton and the team’s staff of athletic trainers and strength and conditioning and other coaches are preparing for a preseason that could begin Aug. 3 or possibly as early as mid-July. After today’s staff meeting and a possible decision Wednesday by the NCAA Division I Council, more clarity could be known soon.
“It could affect us in a positive way if we get our kids a week or two weeks earlier than we typically would, and that would be fantastic because it helps us prepare a little more,” Hamilton said. “Our sport is unique because we come in before everyone else and we play a game before everyone else with a really short window of seven to 10 days to get ready. ... If we don’t get to start until Aug. 3, that’s a really small time and especially with classes starting Aug. 10, we lose half of preseason once they get into class. For us, we’re just kind of taking it by stride.”