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story.lead_photo.caption Reddies Kody Whitaker (16) and Landon Cook (6) tackle Griffons Trey Vaval returning a punt at the Agent Barry Live United Bowl at Razorback Stadium on Saturday, December 7, 2019, in Texarkana, Arkansas. Photo by Hunt Mercier / Texarkana Gazette.

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. — The Great American Conference Council of Presidents unanimously approved a plan to delay the start of all intercollegiate athletic practices until the week of August 31, with the launch of competition postponed until the week of September 28.

GAC teams include Arkansas Tech University, University of Arkansas at Monticello, East Central University, Harding University, Henderson State University, Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma Baptist University, Ouachita Baptist University, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Southern Arkansas University, Southern Nazarene University and Southwestern Oklahoma State University. 

Teams will play current GAC schedule grids when play resumes in late September. The GAC will formulate a plan to reschedule those games not played on the existing schedule — as well as the format for fall conference postseason events — following NCAA Division II action on the status of fall championships.

"This plan creates additional time to craft a safe and meaningful championship season for our student-athletes," GAC Commissioner Will Prewitt said. "It affords our members the ability to open their campuses for in-person learning and allows additional time for student-athletes to acclimate back to full athletic activity."

The conference will continue to consult with campus medical professionals, outside consultants, and local public health officials to monitor the viability of playing conditions during the reopening of campuses.

"Our leadership has worked hard to find a path forward and join other NCAA Division II conferences that intend to compete this fall," Prewitt said. "I'm cautiously optimistic about the return of GAC competition, but work remains to ensure the health and safety of our student-athletes, their families, coaches, and administrators."

The Council has the ability to adjust its recommendation as necessary to protect the health and safety of all involved in GAC athletics. Conference administrators and the Council of Presidents will both meet weekly to address developments as they arise.

"The GAC Council of Presidents share a united voice in the decision we made today as we continue to search for ways to allow our student-athletes to compete safely during this most challenging year," said Harding President and GAC Council of Presidents Chairman Dr. Bruce McLarty. "This decision keeps hope alive that we will be able to compete this year. The safety of our students, our campuses, and the communities in which we live remains our top priority."

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