The on-going coronavirus pandemic is again threatening the NAIA sports landscape.
On Tuesday, the NAIA Council of Presidents (COP) voted to postpone the national championships in cross-country, men's soccer, women's soccer and women's volleyball to spring 2021. The timing of the football national championship will be determined on Friday.
This decision still allows NAIA conferences to compete in the fall and winter, if they so choose. The Great Plains Athletic Conference recently announced its intentions to move forward with fall sports for 2020.
“I really feel like the GPAC is committed to moving forward and playing a full fall season,” DWU Athletic Director Jon Hart said. “With that being said, a lot of details and decisions need to be discussed in order for that to happen.”
Hart said discussions are continuing among the GPAC Council of Presidents to determine the next course of action. There’s been discussions to play some sports in the fall and some in the spring.
“All that stuff is on the table right now and all those things are being discussed among our conference and institutional leaders,” Hart added.
The GPAC doesn’t have a timeline for making its decisions for the fall. But the clock is ticking as competition for volleyball, soccer and cross-country is set to begin Sept. 5. Teams can begin practice on Aug. 15.
“We are going to have to make a lot of big decisions in a short amount of time,” Hart said.
Prior to the COP’s vote, 51 NAIA individual institutions had already opted to postpone fall competition until spring 2021. Dates for the postponed championships have yet to be announced.
Hart believes the GPAC’s geographical footprint allows it to play a full fall schedule. Other regional conferences -- Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference and The Heart of America Athletic Conference -- have also expressed a strong interest in playing fall sports.
“When gauging AD’s and Presidents in the Midwest, I really feel like there is a lot of support for playing in the fall as well,” Hart said.
As for football and its unique challenges surrounding it, COP members decided they needed more time to obtain feedback from their colleagues, according to an NAIA release.
Hart also believes football could be moved to spring.
“Based on recent threshold data, I would be really surprised if football championships weren’t pushed to the spring as well,” Hart said.
In March 2020, the NAIA canceled the spring 2020 season due to gathering restrictions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. No spring 2020 athlete was charged a season of competition.