RIVER FALLS, Wis.-- After the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Council of Chancellors voted unanimously Tuesday, Jan. 19, to begin winter sports competition the week of Feb. 1, UW-River Falls basketball, hockey and track and field teams are ready to begin their respective abbreviated seasons.

The WIAC announced last September it was suspending all winter sports through at least Dec. 31 after shutting down its spring season last March and cancelling the fall seasons in July. But this week’s announcement means teams can resume competition with conference-only schedules and no spectators. All contests will be conducted in accordance with NCAA Division III regulations, as well as institutional, state and local health and safety guidelines.

What it means for UW-River Falls

Like the rest of the WIAC, no UW-River Falls teams have competed since the conference shut down all sports last March 16 due to the spread of the coronavirus. In July the conference announced it was cancelling fall sports as well. This week’s announcement will allow the Falcon men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s hockey and men’s and women’s indoor track and field programs to begin competition the week of Feb. 1.

Two divisions for basketball

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Teams will be divided into two divisions for men’s and women’s basketball. UWRF will be in the West Division along with UW-Eau Claire, UW-La Crosse, and UW-Stout. The East Division will consist of UW-Oshkosh, UW-Platteville, UW-Stevens Point and UW-Whitewater.

Each team will play two games against each divisional opponent, as well as two games against one cross-over opponent, for a total of eight games. All eight teams will qualify for the WIAC Championships that begin on March 1. The winner of the conference tournament receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championships scheduled to start March 11.

The Falcon men and women will both play their first games Wednesday, Feb. 3 against UW-Stout with the UWRF men on the road and the women at home.

Hockey to play 8 and 10 game schedules

Women’s hockey teams will play an eight-game conference schedule and all five teams will participate in the WIAC Championship/O’Brien Cup, while men’s hockey teams will play a 10-game conference schedule and all six teams will compete in the WIAC Championship/Commissioner’s Cup. The NCAA Division III Championships are scheduled to begin March 10 for women and March 18 for men.

The Falcon women will open play Wednesday, Feb. 3 at home against Northland College while the men will begin play that night at UW-Stout.

No conference meet for indoor track

The WIAC Indoor Track and Field Championships, originally scheduled to be hosted by UW-Platteville Feb. 26-27, have been canceled, but teams will compete in meets until March 6. The first meet for the UWRF men and women will be Saturday, Feb. 6, at UW-Stout. The NCAA Division III Championships are currently scheduled to be held March 12-13 at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio.