The Big East Conference has eliminated nonconference competitions in 2020 for its six fall sports. Now the question is, will there be conference contests in the fall?

Villanova director of athletics Mark Jackson said Thursday that fall competitions probably won’t start prior to late September or early October, with school health officials, the conference, and the NCAA keeping “a real careful and close eye on the landscape.”

However, with the pandemic showing no signs of abating, and coronavirus cases rising across much of the country, Jackson admits that his optimism that there will be sports in the fall is “dwindling.”

“I’m paying attention to national trends,” he said. “But there is a ray of hope. We’re leaning on the NCAA medical team, we’re leaning on our Big East medical folks. I am confident in at least bringing our kids back from a practice and a training standpoint, that we have protocols and the facility measures that we can create a safe environment.

“But where the work is and where the focus is, it’s when you start talking about traveling and then testing and tracing 72 hours prior to a competition. There’s a lot in there to allow competition to take place. Anybody that’s trying to play college sports has a lot of work to do.

“It just changes so much every day. There could be a development in testing. There could be a development in tracing. Who knows? Right now, I’m less optimistic about it.”

The six Big East fall sports are men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey and women’s volleyball.

In football, where Villanova is a member of the Colonial Athletic Association, the Wildcats have lost nonconference games against Lehigh and Bucknell after the Patriot League cut fall sports, and their game against Wake Forest of the ACC is doubtful. The CAA has yet to announce its plans for the upcoming season.

Jackson said another concern is quarantine protocols for teams that must travel to other states, or come to Pennsylvania, and keeping up with them on a regular basis.

“As of today, they’re pretty ominous,” Jackson said. “But I would say the Big East has done a really good job of mapping out multiple, multiple scenarios around competition that could provide solutions for a number of different hurdles.”

Villanova’s first-year students will return to campus Aug. 11-12, while upperclassmen come back Aug. 14-16.

The Big East said its plans for basketball and other winter and spring sports seasons “remain unaffected at this time.”