Bechtold’s Breakdowns: What does moving fall sports to spring mean for RMU?

Photo+Credit%3A+Erik+Schmidt

Photo Credit: Erik Schmidt

By Austin Bechtold, Assistant Sports Editor

As the first day of classes officially kicks off the start of a new year for Robert Morris and a new era in the athletics, the Colonials were supposed to be preparing for their first-ever action in the Horizon League. Nonetheless, a global pandemic found a way to completely derail those plans for the near future.

RMU volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer, golf, and cross country teams have seen conference play pushed back to 2021, the same goes for rowing, who stays in the MAAC, and football now officially in the Big South.

With the delayed entrance into official league play, what does the extra time away from game action mean for Robert Morris athletics?

For starters, the added time gives coaches like Dale Starr and Bernard Clark additional time to prepare for all new conference opponents that they will be facing. The Horizon League and Big South are viewed as a big step up from the NEC in terms of competition and level of play.

Last season, Coach Starr lead volleyball to one of the best seasons in program history, winning the NEC regular-season title with a school-record 15 conference wins. RMU went undefeated at home until a disappointing upset at the hands of Central Connecticut State sent the No. 1 seed Colonials off the floor for what ended up being their last NEC matchup.

Coach Clark guided the football team to one of their best seasons in recent years as well, winning seven of the team’s last nine games to finish 7-5 after only securing two victories in 2018. The most impressive accomplishment came in conference play, as Robert Morris turned a 0-6 record the previous year into a 6-1 campaign to finish second behind Central Connecticut State. Under Clark’s leadership, the program took off in his second season at the helm and surpassed most expectations set for the team.

RMU’s top two fall programs will have the opportunity to take the momentum and success gained in 2019 to the next level, as they will need to put additional work in to combat the conferences’ top and most experienced teams. Fans cannot expect the Colonials to go into the Horizon League and Big South and automatically be top conference contenders. Moving up to a higher conference will no doubt have its growing pains and bumps in the road, but the coaching staff for these two programs should make the transition smoother than others.

Two teams to look out for that the volleyball program will be tasked to handle are Wright State, the top program in the 2019 regular season, and Northern Kentucky, who won the conference tournament. The Big South football standings were dominated by Monmouth, a former NEC opponent, and Kennesaw State.

The delay could also help programs’ ability to protect themselves from COVID-19, creating a plan to keep players and coaches safe from potential exposure from the virus. The possibility of a vaccine being produced by the end of 2020 would definitely benefit all fall sports programs attempting to compete in the spring along with the typical spring sports slate.

One item to watch is the layoff that athletes will face going into 2021. With a full calendar year of no game action and live competition, there is sure to be rust on numerous players’ games to begin the season.

The long-awaited entry of Robert Morris athletics to the Horizon League and Big South will continue to build anticipation and no doubt be a great feeling for all Colonial fans come game time.