Update: On Wednesday afternoon, the MPSF confirmed that it would not hold a fall 2020 water polo season. “Given the dynamic nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fluidity of containment efforts, it is absolutely necessary that the MPSF collaborate with the greater community to minimize the spread and overall impact of the virus. As always, the MPSF remains committed to the safety and well- being of its student-athletes, campus staff, and all others who contribute to the conference.
The 4 Pac-12 member institutions that compete in men’s water polo will be included in the conference’s blanket ban on intercollegiate varsity athletics competition during the fall 2020 semester, a conference spokesperson told SwimSwam on Tuesday.
Cal, Stanford, UCLA, and USC sponsor teams in men’s water polo, which is a fall season sport in the NCAA. While those schools primarily compete in the Pac-12 for most sports, their men’s water polo teams compete in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF).
The MPSF has 39 member institutions, mostly located in the western United States (but not entirely). The conference was founded in 1992 and was created to provide a conference for “Olympic” sports. It is made up of schools that have a primary membership in other conferences, but that have joined the MPSF to find a broader competitive base for schools where their primary conference, like the Pac-12, doesn’t sponsor the sport.
Pac-12 teams make up 4 of the 6 members of the men’s water polo field in the MPSF. The other two are Division III Austin College in Texas and Division III Penn State Behrend. Austin College and Penn State Behrend only compete in the conference tournament, which essentially leaves the four Pac-12 schools as a mini-conference in the regular season.
A spokesperson for the MPSF told SwimSwam on Monday that they had no official answer about the future of the conference’s fall sport season, but 5 of the 6 men’s water polo member teams have now independently pulled out of at least a fall season. Austin College suspended men’s water polo fall competition in July, while Penn State Behrend has not made an announcement about its plans for the fall water polo season. The Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference, which is Behrend’s primary conference, has postponed ‘most’ fall sports until the spring semester, but not all.
MPSF Men’s Water Polo Teams:
- Cal (Pac-12) – no fall semester sports
- UCLA (Pac-12) – no fall semester sports
- Stanford (Pac-12) – no fall semester sports
- USC (Pac-12) – no fall semester sports
- Austin College (SCAC/SAA) – season suspended
- Penn State Behrend (AMCC) – no official announcement made
There are still more aquatics decisions to be made by the MPSF in the coming days. Given the decisions of conferences like the Pac-12 with which the MPSF has close ties, there could be a broader suspension of athletics for the fall season or the fall semester. The MPSF has 8 women’s swimming & diving programs and 6 men’s swimming & diving programs among its members.
It’s not a given that schools which compete in other conferences must follow the rules of their home conference. For example, the Mountain West, which cancelled fall season (but not fall semester) sports last week says that men’s swimming & diving teams, which compete in the WAC, will follow WAC schedules on a 2020-2021 season.
While not every NCAA men’s water polo program (there is only 1 division in NCAA men’s water polo) has canceled their fall 2020 season, those that have will basically force the entire sport to a spring schedule, at best.
Between cancellations in the MPSF, Ivy League, and the Golden Coast Conference, in addition to the independent withdrawal from the season by Bucknell, 7 of the 8 participants in the NCAA Championship tournament last season won’t compete in fall 2020.
2019 men’s NCAA water polo championship final standings
- (Champion) Stanford – no fall season
- (Runner-up) Pacific – no fall season
- (Semifinalist) – USC – no fall season
- (Semifinalist) – Pepperdine – no fall season
- (Quarterfinalist) – Bucknell – no fall season
- (Quarterfinalist) – UC Davis – no announcement
- (Opening Round Loss) – Harvard – no fall season