The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference has postponed its football, men’s and women’s soccer, and volleyball seasons until the spring, the league announced on Monday.

The conference took the extraordinary step due to the ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. All three sports have been classified as “high-risk” by the NCAA and as a result, the HCAC Council of Presidents voted unanimously to move the three sports to the spring. Cross country, golf and tennis will go on as scheduled.

“With the well-being of our students and campus communities as the top priority, the Council of Presidents’ decision provides our best conference-wide combination of participation, responsibility and safety,” Hanover President Lake Lambert said. “Our student-athletes will continue to reap the benefits of team involvement and experiences, while also having the opportunity for intercollegiate competition as conditions allow.”

The decision on shifting the competitive seasons for these high-contact-risk sports came after careful analysis of whether Heartland Conference institutions could successfully fulfill NCAA testing recommendations without drawing vital health resources from their local communities. In addition, conference officials anticipate that spring seasons for the high-contact-risk sports will be safer for the student-athletes as continued scientific and testing gains are made with respect to the coronavirus. Finally, a recent NCAA waiver that provides flexibility in how teams’ seasons are structured allows meaningful experiences this fall for student-athletes, even without intercollegiate competition.

“Keeping our student-athletes safe is of the utmost importance and I understand and support the presidents’ decisions,” said Lynn Hall, Hanover’s vice president for athletics. “Obviously, while I am dismayed that we will not have football, soccer and volleyball this semester, I am more disappointed for those student-athletes and their families who will not get to have the seasons they had expected this fall.”

Although the conference has postponed football, soccer and volleyball, it said that it will attempt to schedule a limited number of baseball and softball games for the fall which will not count in league standings. The league also said that it will evaluate the basketball season in the coming weeks, but swimming and diving is expected to be contested as scheduled.