CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WJZ/AP) — The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, a conference comprised of historically black colleges, is suspending all fall sports out of concern over the COVID-19 pandemic.

A statement from the conference said several of its schools are located in states experiencing dramatic increases in new COVID-19 cases. It said the recent rise in cases has led to a pause in phased reopening plans in many of those states, resulting in uncertainty as to whether students will return to campus this fall at several CIAA institutions.

In a statement, Bowie State Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics & Recreation Clyde Doughty, who also serves as the President of CIAA Athletic Directors Association, said student-athletes’ safety and health is the top priority.

“These are unprecedented times and our conference continues to work together to identify the best solutions that address the concerns impacting our ability to participate and exist,” Doughty said in part.

The conference said on Thursday it will explore the possibility of a modified schedule for football, volleyball and men’s and women’s cross country next spring. In addition, the CIAA said its members unanimously agreed to honor athletic scholarships for student-athletes participating in fall sports.

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