BY MAKENNA ALLEN
It may have been slow in coming, but football is back in season as Division I schools across the nation take to the field. A week ago, the Big Ten reversed its decision to cancel the season and the effect is beginning to trickle into Division II as several schools within the MIAA consider the option of implementing a delayed fall season.
Despite several individual efforts among MIAA schools to participate in games this season, FHSU Athletics remains firm in its stance on delaying scrimmages until the spring. The Athletic Department says its main goal is to focus on winter sports and the upcoming decision about the start date for those events. Currently, Head Football Coach Chris Brown, plans to begin practice for his team Oct. 20.
Meanwhile, Missouri Western State leads a group of MIAA football teams looking to play a truncated fall season. Pittsburg State stands as one of these teams and is already preparing a five-game non-conference season.
PSU announced Sept. 19 their first game will take place Nov. 14 against the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks. The Gorillas will also take on West Texas A&M on Nov. 28.
This decision came on the heels of an MIAA athletic director meeting last Thursday in which the conference’s athletic directors met to discuss the topic of pursuing fall competition within the conference. According to an article in St. Joseph News-Press Now, the motion passed 10-2, though it did not gain approval from the league’s presidents.
Though PSU was the first team to announce a game on the schedule, the school released on Tuesday it would form a non-conference scheduling alliance with MWSU and the University of Nebraska Kearney. The alliance will allow the members to play a partial schedule set to begin in late October.
The way in which this alliance is designed allows the three teams to play two games against each other before completing their schedules with non-conference competition from the NACC-II and Football Championship Subconference (FCS).
Though the alliance does not include 2019 conference co-champion Northwest Missouri State, the St. Joseph News-Press Now article stated the school is still considering its decision as the team will not begin to practice until Sept. 28. Indeed, the need for training to prepare for the season remains just one area of concern for university athletics departments.
St. Joseph News also suggests that another potential source of conflict for teams looking to play lies in ensuring that NCAA guidelines are able to be appropriately followed. For many teams that were not able to play due to the financial implications of the protocols, a season is now becoming feasible due to decreasing costs of testing practices.
One area that will not affect the decision relates to athlete eligibility. In fact, the three MIAA schools are looking at schedules of three to five games that would not impact athlete eligibility. Recently, the NCAA announced that it would preserve eligibility so long as the number of contests does not exceed 50% of the maximum number of contests for the 2020-2021 season. For NCAA football, that number was reduced from 11 to 10 games this year.
Even though eligibility may not be of concern, schools such as FHSU must take time to consider the impact of diverting attention from the fast-approaching winter sports season. Though PSU, MWSU, and UNK look to kick off the season in just a month’s time, FHSU Athletics maintains its position that lies in accordance with the majority of MIAA institutions.
With the start of winter sports just around the corner, the focus must be on those teams hoping to begin at the usual time. Ultimately, FHSU football will see the field at some point, just not this fall.