BY MAKENNA ALLEN
The world of FHSU Athletics faced another alteration of plans today. On Thursday, the MIAA met to discuss the possibility of holding any conference athletic events for the fall season. Earlier this morning, the Association released an official announcement, postponing all fall sports until Jan. 1, 2021.
According to the release, the hope is that sports including football, women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer, and men’s and women’s cross country may see a season of spring competition. However, at this time, no schedule has been set.
The release also stated the MIAA will make a decision regarding winter sports no later than Oct. 1.
According to FHSU Athletic Director, Curtis Hammeke, the decision was made in the best interest of students.
“This decision has been made to protect the health and safety of our student-athletes, our Universities and our communities within the region of the MIAA,” Hammeke said.
This choice is not one made without ample time and consideration.
Just over a week ago, the NCAA Division II President’s Council announced it would cancel the 2020 NCAA Division II Fall Championships. This decision came in response to the revised guidelines for return to sports released earlier that day by the NCAA.
The NCAA left the decision of whether or not to proceed with conference play and fall championships up to the three divisions themselves. As more than half of both Division II and III leagues have already canceled their fall seasons, the NCAA regulations mandated that fall championships be canceled as well.
Though the NCAA had left its divisions with ample time until the Aug. 21 deadline to decide whether to hold fall championships, both divisions came to their conclusions on the same day the original announcement was made.
At this time, the “Power Five” Division I conferences are split in their decision regarding conference play. Both the Big Ten and Pac-12 have postponed their fall sports seasons. On Wednesday, the Big 12 announced that it will make an attempt at a fall season. Meanwhile, the SEC and ACC remain firm in their plan to continue with their original schedule for the season.
No matter where schools lie in the process, questions continue to arise regarding the feasibility of implementing the new protocols laid out by the NCAA last week.
Now, even as schools reel from the initial decision to cancel fall championships, many Division II and III universities face yet another downturn in events for the season and the MIAA is no exception in this case.
The MIAA is not alone in its struggle to meet the new set of regulations. Just some of the 23 Division II schools to cancel their fall conference play include the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the California Collegiate Athletic Association, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, and the Lone Star ConferenceCIAA.
Other conferences such as the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference and the Conference Carolinas still hope for fall play but continue to evaluate the situation.
Ultimately, the question each conference must evaluate is whether or not holding a fall season of purely conference play (without a chance at a national title) is truly worth it. Because of the NCAA regulations, the answer for many institutions is “no.”
These return-to-sport guidelines detail protocols that are not financially feasible for many smaller schools such as FHSU. Even as they struggle to meet the monetary requirements, such schools may also find difficulty when it comes to maintaining proper personnel to fulfill the guidelines.
Thus, the MIAA arrived at its conclusion that for member schools, the only option was to postpone the fall season. Along with other conferences, the MIAA considers the option of holding modified seasons for these sports in the spring. However, the NCAA created no provisions for the potential of holding the canceled national championships at this time.
Another issue presented by the plan of postponement to the spring arises in the difficulty of scheduling double the number of sports in the same area and time frame intended for solely spring athletics.
“We will consider developing modified schedules for Fall sports in the Spring. There are logistical issues involved with doing so around Winter and Spring sports, but we intend to look at those issues conference-wide,” Hammeke said.
No matter the outlook for fall sports playing in the spring season, FHSU athletes maintain dedication to their individual sports and a positive outlook regarding the MIAA decision.
“With our season being in jeopardy, it’s hard to stay motivated but I know that eventually we’ll be able to play,” redshirt freshman linebacker, Myles Menges, said.
It is with this hope for the future that all stakeholders in the FHSU Athletics community must wait for sports to return to the FHSU campus. Ultimately, only time will tell the changes that programs will see in this unprecedented period of calm.