Big East announces COVID-19 task force, geographical divisions for soccer and volleyball


Xavier Ortega / The DePaulia

DePaul’s Jacob Seeto defending a Marquette forward during a 1-0 loss at Wish Field on Nov. 16, 2019.

In an effort to bring back college sports in time for the fall, the Big East put together a plan that gives the conference a better chance of having fall sports.

On Monday, the conference announced that they are forming a COVID-19 task force, with DePaul women’s basketball head coach Doug Bruno being one of the three coaches on the task force. In total, there are 19 people on the task force, which includes national health experts, athletics administrators, head coaches, physicians, trainers, event and facility personnel and student-athletes.

The task force will help guide the conference’s schools in safely resuming and conducting athletics activities. With concerns regarding the coronavirus outbreak growing, the Big East canceled the rest of the men’s basketball conference tournament back on March 12. The conference also canceled all spring sport championships. 

Also, the Big East decided to implement geographical divisions for volleyball, field hockey and men’s and women’s soccer. Soccer and volleyball will be separated into East and Midwest divisions. 

DePaul, who does not have a field hockey program, will play in the Midwest division, which also consists of Creighton, Xavier, Marquette and Butler. The East division consists of Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall, Villanova, St. John’s and returning member UConn. 

Men’s and women’s soccer divisional opponents will face each other two times each in a double round-robin format, while volleyball opponents will play each other four times. The changes were approved by the conference’s athletic directors, according to the press release. 

The NCAA voted on May 20 to lift restrictions on all on-campus workouts, with schools being allowed to bring back football, men’s and women’s basketball players for voluntary workouts starting June 1. DePaul, however, has not announced when they will bring back its student-athletes. The city of Chicago entered Phase 3 of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s five-part reopening plan on June 3. 

“At this point, we’re focused on our student-athletes having a strong finish to the spring quarter and celebrating our graduating student-athletes virtually,” DePaul Athletics told The DePaulia on May 26. “We’re also wishing a strong academic finish to the school year for all DePaul students and our congrats to the Class of 2020 on their graduation from DePaul. Additionally, athletics like all sectors of the University is operating under the directives of the University’s procedures regarding COVID-19 along with the directives from both the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois. Like every area of the University we are developing plans and procedures for a return to campus that is safe for all students, faculty and staff at the appropriate time.”

Even though DePaul athletes have not been able to train together in the last couple of months, players have been making sure to stay in shape while at home. 

“With all the stuff going on, the coaches have been pretty good,” DePaul men’s soccer player Jacob Seeto said. “It’s all voluntary, of course, because of the NCAA rules. But the guys who are doing it, it shows Rich’s programs are tailored to home workouts and lifting with backpacks. So, I mainly have been doing those, I spend a lot of time running. It’s good, though, lots of the boys are in Chicago because it’s helpful when there are other people around.” 

While some parts of the country begin to reopen, including Chicago, some gyms and fitness centers are still not fully open. Combine that with student-athletes now being forced to workout at home, they have had to get creative with how they stay in shape for the upcoming season. 

I try and look for innovative methods to workout while I’m at home,” Bina Saipi told The DePaulia in April. “If I’m training with weights, I fill up a backpack full of books to get the desired weight I require and workout with that. Most of the time, I keep myself by practicing drills and running inside my own garden and house. I also do some conditioning training which helps my mobility and flexibility.”

DePaul student-athletes are making sure to stay ready for the fall season, but there is still no confirmation if and when the season will start. Some schools inside the Big East are located in states where the biggest outbreaks of COVID-19 have happened in the country. New York, New Jersey and Illinois are in the top four in confirmed coronavirus cases as of Monday, according to The New York Times. 

“I mean the best thing you can do is be hopeful,” Seeto said. “We are all hopeful the season is going to start, hopeful we will be back soon in training and will be able to get on the field. It’s mainly planning for it to be on. I’m not really thinking about what I’m going to do if it’s not on. I’m just hopeful that it will be on and we can be playing and training soon, coaches do a good job about that. We have weekly meetings, while there’s a lot of us not together, it still feels like we are with those zoom meetings and the activities we get done throughout them.”

According to the Big East’s press release on Monday, schedules will be developed using NCAA Championship date formulas to make sure conference play will be finished in time for the national postseason. As of right now, nothing has been confirmed regarding Big East fall championship dates, sites and formats.