Emory welcomes return to University Athletic Association conference competition

Emory Report | May 11, 2021

An Emory volleyball player leaps for the ball during a game
An Emory basketball player leaps to dunk the ball
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Emory’s 19 varsity sports teams are part of the University Athletic Association, which competes in the NCAA’s Division III. On May 11, the UAA announced its decision to return to a full schedule of conference competition this fall. (Photos show athletes competing before the pandemic.)

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It’s the most exciting sports news that Eagles student-athletes, coaches and fans have heard in a long time. On Tuesday, the University Athletic Association (UAA) announced its decision to return to a full schedule of conference competition this fall, ending a pandemic-related hiatus that extended through the entire 2020-2021 season. 

Emory is one of eight member institutions of the UAA Conference, which competes in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III. “It is with great pleasure that the members of the University Athletic Association announce their intent to return to pre-COVID-19 levels of competition across all sports within the UAA beginning with the start of the 2021 fall season,” the UAA announcement reads in part.

"The opportunity to reconnect with conference members on a competitive basis is something our student-athletes, coaches and other stakeholders have eagerly anticipated,” says Keiko Price, Emory’s assistant vice president of Campus Life and the Clyde Partin Sr. Director of Athletics. “This is a wonderful day for the UAA and I know we are all looking forward to better days ahead."

Emory has a broad-based intercollegiate athletic program with over 400 student-athletes comprising the school's 19 varsity sports.

“With the UAA returning to competition this fall, Emory student athletes will be able to excel and have the full range of athletic experiences they have trained for,” says Emory President Gregory L. Fenves. “I can’t wait to see all of our teams back in competition, representing Emory with their talent, drive and enthusiasm.” 

Prioritizing student safety and following guidelines from the CDC, other public health authorities at the national and local levels, Emory public health experts, and the UAA, the university suspended all practice and competition during fall 2020. In October, the UAA cancelled all winter conference competition, while Emory cancelled its winter intercollegiate competition.

Continuing to follow public health guidelines in spring 2021, Emory cleared all of its sports programs to practice in February. Later in the semester, Eagles spring teams competed with non-UAA teams at home and away. 

“For our student-athletes, the loss of competition in the sports to which they have devoted so much talent and determination for so many years has been a particularly challenging consequence of the pandemic,” says Enku Gelaye, vice president and dean of Campus Life.

“I thank our student-athletes for their patience during these difficult times,” Gelaye adds. “And I thank our athletics director and entire athletics staff for their unwavering support of Emory student-athletes throughout this past year.”

The UAA announcement offers assurance that health and safety remain a priority, noting that its members “are prepared to work collaboratively to ensure appropriate protocols are in place as UAA competition resumes based on guidance from campus health and safety officials and recommendations from the NCAA Sports Science Institute and the National Centers for Disease Control.”

"Our athletes have demonstrated incredible resilience and perseverance through unprecedented challenges," says Jenny McDowell, who enters her 26th year this fall as the Eagles' head volleyball coach. “We are thrilled to move forward with conference competition and we are thankful to conference presidents and athletic directors for their commitment to getting our student-athletes back on the court.”

Gelaye agrees. “Our Eagles are excited, ready to return to competition, and eager to carry on Emory’s rich tradition of combining athletic excellence and academic excellence.”