As the Great Plains Athletic Conference continues to navigate through the fall, it recently made changes to its 2020-21 winter schedules.

The GPAC Return to Play Task Force proposed a motion to drop allowable contests in men’s and women’s basketball, wrestling and indoor track and field in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The GPAC’s Council of Presidents approved the measure, while using similar scheduling models as the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference and the Heart of America Athletic Conference.

“They really trimmed their schedules down as well,” Dakota Wesleyan University Athletic Director Jon Hart said. “So we kind of followed that trend and then based on what we’ve been going through this fall with a lot of postponements.”

In indoor track and field, the allowable meets drop from 10 to eight, while wrestling goes from 20 to 18. The GPAC will drop allowable contests to 25 (from 30) for both women’s and men’s basketball. The teams will be allowed two scrimmages/exhibitions, while the conference start date is Nov. 11. The GPAC men’s teams will play 20 games, while the women’s teams are slated for 22 contests.

“We just figured we are not going to put a 30-game pressure on our coaches,” Hart continued. “So we really slimmed it down and went to 25.”

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GPAC men’s teams can schedule up to five non-conference contests, while the women can schedule three non-conference games. (The GPAC has 12 members for women’s basketball with College of St. Mary (Neb.), resulting in 22 conference games under the traditional home-and-home format, compared to 20 for the men.)

The DWU teams will each play two non-conference games at the Sanford Pentagon on Nov. 7-8 against Valley City State University and Presentation College. The Tiger men will also play at Dickinson State University and Dakota State University (twice) during the non-conference slate. The DWU women’s schedule is still being finalized, said Hart.

The DWU teams will host Briar Cliff on Wednesday, Nov. 11 at the Corn Palace to start their GPAC slate.

The motion also encourages regional play, which eliminates non-conference trips to Florida, Illinois, Nevada and Arizona like DWU has taken in recent years.

“We are really keeping our competition regional based this year,” Hart said. “I think within an eight-hour radius is pretty fair, but not outside of that.”

Teams must play 75 percent of their conference games (17 women, 15 men) to qualify for the conference tournament. In case of any COVID-related postponements, the GPAC moved two late conference games to Wednesday, Dec. 16 and Saturday, Dec. 19 to create open weeks near the end of the schedule.

“We just thought that was a good idea to move those up and that kind of gives us some COVID rain out dates basically in the back end,” Hart said. “With everything going on this fall, we figured we had to give ourselves some wiggle room toward the end of the schedule.”

As for how DWU will handle attendance for those home basketball games, capacity at the Corn Palace and ticketing, those plans are still being finalized, Hart said, with plans to be announced at a later date.