SIGNAL PEAK — The stage is set for Central Arizona College athletes to resume competition.

Practice for women’s basketball, men’s basketball, track and field, baseball and softball starts Jan. 4. Baseball likely will be the first CAC team to see action against an actual opponent. The Vaqueros can open Jan. 22, four days before the basketball squads begin their abbreviated 16-game regular season.

There’s no way of knowing, of course, of what will actually transpire in 2021. With the coronavirus raging at its highest level since the onset of the pandemic, uncertainty abounds.

“There are a lot of what-ifs,” CAC athletic director Chuck Schnoor said. “Anything can happen.”

Schnoor and his fellow Arizona Community College Athletic Conference ADs engaged in a lengthy Dec. 21 discussion to hammer out the details of what they hope will be the best way to ensure the medical safety of everybody involved with ACCAC athletics – including referees, umpires and the other required essential personnel.

“It’s a management nightmare,” Schnoor said. “We know it’s not going to be smooth.”

Not being reasonably confident on a day-to-day basis of what will happen in the coming months is going to be the hardest part for the conference ADs.

Just like the athletes, “we’ll have to be flexible, agile and mobile and adjust to the circumstances when they happen,” Schnoor said.

Schools under the umbrella of the Maricopa (County) Community Colleges will not play basketball in 2021. That leaves what Schnoor termed five “outliers” to go head-to-head against each other four times instead of the usual two. Along with CAC, that group includes Arizona Western, Cochise, Pima and Eastern Arizona.

Games are on Tuesdays and Saturdays, starting Jan. 26. No fans will be allowed to attend.

The Maricopa County schools tentatively will allow their athletic teams to participate in spring sports. That means it’s a possibility that CAC softball (48 conference games) and baseball (38) can play the full number.

Allowing fans to attend outdoor events remains under discussion.