BY MAKENNA ALLEN
Last Thursday afternoon, the MIAA announced its decision regarding the start date for winter sports. The MIAA CEO Council meeting awaited by athletic directors, coaches, players, and community members alike culminated in a decision to allow the 2020-2021 winter season for basketball to proceed as originally planned. Meanwhile, wrestling and indoor track and field seasons await an official start date corresponding with institution schedules.
According to the press release by the MIAA, the decision involved discussions regarding the NCAA Sports Science Institute’s Core Principles of Resocialization of Collegiate Basketball, which includes regulations regarding testing and travel for teams. Ultimately, the conclusion was to proceed as planned with both men’s and women’s basketball schedules.
“Since it doesn’t appear at this time that the NCAA is going to be moving the postseason basketball tournament into April, our conference has voted to begin the basketball season as originally scheduled,” FHSU athletic director, Curtis Hammeke, said. “Moving the tournament to April would have made it more realistic to move the start date for basketball into January.”
For the Tigers, this means that the college basketball season will officially begin with practices on Oct. 15.
Under their current schedules, the men’s and women’s basketball teams are set to begin competition in November.
The women’s basketball program has two exhibition games scheduled — Nov. 2 against UCONN and Nov. 5 against Kansas State. The official season for the team begins with a home game against Washburn, Nov. 18.
The Tigers have been preparing for this traditional start to the season in such a way that they are ready to begin official practice in just two weeks.
“Our team is doing close to what we would normally do, with protocols being followed: individual and team workouts with weight training and conditioning,” women’s basketball head coach, Tony Hobson, said.
Likewise, the men’s team has been training under precautions so that they are able to begin their season at the same time. Indeed, the men’s basketball program will also face the Washburn Ichabods in their home opener on Nov. 18.
“Our team is excited to be starting on time and looks forward to the first day of official practice,” men’s basketball head coach, Mark Johnson, said.
While both basketball teams continue preparing as though this were a “normal” season, concerns remain regarding NCAA regulations for testing. Most of the issues posed arise from the increased cost of testing players on a regular basis.
“Once the testing starts for all teams with the arrival of competition with other teams a normal type season will be impossible,” Hobson said. “There will be some positive tests on teams and the games will be shut down and rescheduled. There will be hurdles we might not be able to jump at this level.”
According to Hobson, this challenge is one that many schools similar in size to FHSU must face when compared to larger universities, as well as high schools and NAIA colleges.
“The protocols are put into place for schools with massive dollar and people resources that our league does not have. High schools and NAIA colleges are going full steam ahead with all sports because they don’t do testing,” Hobson said. “There is probably not one team that wouldn’t have a positive test. They only test with symptoms. The rules put in place by the NCAA are making it very difficult for Division II schools to have a season.”
Johnson echoed this apprehension.
“Testing is a concern and questions still remain on how many tests a week and how they will be administered,” Johnson said. “We will be diligent and try to protect ourselves to the best of our abilities.”
Ultimately, Hobson was encouraged by the announcement while remaining aware that the situation can change quickly.
This mentality will also impact wrestling and indoor track and field seasons, especially as the MIAA announcement did not lay out official start dates for these sports. This decision was made because schedules have not been finalized by all institutions.
“Competition for wrestling and indoor track has been left to the discretion of institutions for this winter,” Hammeke said. “We are currently looking at the options for both sports and will make decisions in the near future.”
The release from the MIAA did more than just address winter sports. In fact, it laid out guidelines for football and cross country. According to the announcement, neither team will be able to participate in championship events this academic year. However, MIAA football will be able to compete in up to four scrimmages or games with outside or MIAA institutions in the spring.
Also included in the decision was a provision regarding women’s soccer and volleyball. The MIAA plans to offer seasons for both sports, though the schedules and general guidelines have yet to be determined.
“As for volleyball and soccer, schedules are being discussed through committees at the conference level,” Hammeke said.
Even as these plans begin to take shape, much has yet to be determined for the future of FHSU Athletics. For the time being, the Tiger basketball teams can look forward to seasons beginning in just over a month as Gross Memorial Coliseum prepares for its winter sports.