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NAIA releases plan for return-to-play for fall

KWU Athletics ReleaseJune 5, 2020

The NAIA released a memo late Thursday with plans for sports to come back this fall which targets early September for a return to competition, according to the letter signed by NAIA President and CEO Jim Carr and NAIA Council of Presidents chairperson Arvid Johnson.

Under the plan, all fall sports except football at Kansas Wesleyan and all NAIA institutions, would be allowed to hold competitions starting September 5. Football would be eligible to start a week later.

The start date for practice for all sports will be August 15, though conditioning activities and workouts that don’t fall under the NAIA’s definition of practice may begin before then in accordance with local and state guidelines. The plan will require football teams to practice for at least four weeks and all others for at least three before contests can begin.

The return-to-play dates are contingent on a threshold system that was approved by the Council of Presidents Executive Committee. As stated in the letter, “the threshold goal is for about half the participating institutions in each sport to receive clearance from local authorities to return to competition before the season can begin. For example, NAIA football has 95 participating institutions. When half (47) of these programs gain clearance from authorities to play, the NAIA football season will be authorized to begin.”

The delayed starts and institutions’ desires to limit expenses will also mean reductions in the number of maximum regular-season contests allowed per sport: seven meets for cross country (down from eight), nine games for football (down from 11), 14 games for soccer (down from 18), and 22 dates for volleyball (down from 28).

“The rationale behind the selection of these dates is to provide an adequate acclimatization, conditioning and practice period prior to competition for each sport, while minimizing the need for student-athletes to return to campus early,” the letter states. “Establishing start dates also creates a more level playing field for all institutions that are able to compete this fall.”

For now, the NAIA intends to hold all fall national championships as currently scheduled.

The national office and COP Executive Committee are continuing to explore options for health and safety protocols, including testing and screening, and will announce related decisions as they are made. The committee will be meeting weekly throughout the month.

“Obviously we cannot predict what will happen in the next six months, but we are optimistic that the championships will be hosted as planned,” the letter says.

Kansas Wesleyan President Dr. Matt Thompson released a statement to the campus community on Friday:

Dear Coyotes:

Late yesterday, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) put in place measures that will adjust our athletics calendar for the fall season. Most notably, practices may not begin until August 15, while competition for fall sports (other than football) may begin September 5. The 2020 football season will begin the following week, on September 12. The decision also included a reduction in number of allowable contests for fall sports, which are listed below. Our coaches and athletics staff are working with the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) to determine new fall game schedules. The NAIA’s decision will not change our move-in calendar for residential students (new student move-in on August 5 and returning student move-in on August 7) or our academic calendar with classes beginning August 10.

Our athletics staff is working with officials in the KCAC and at the NAIA national office to determine a list of allowable activities leading up to the August 15 start of practice. We do plan to continue to offer summer conditioning, and head coaches will be in communication with student-athletes. If you have questions, please feel free to reach out to Steve Wilson, Athletic Director ([email protected]).

We look forward to fall athletics and the rest of the activities that make KWU such a vibrant place to live, work, and study.

The full statement from the NAIA is below:

NAIA members,

The NAIA national office, in partnership with leaders of the association, continues to plan for the fall season. Our work is guided first and foremost by the health and safety of your students. Our second priority is to serve our member institutions as you plan for a return to campus and a successful fall term.

We originally set July 1 as the date we would announce our plans for the fall. After discussions with many of you, we know that institutions and conferences are anxiously awaiting direction from the NAIA. As we have considered options related to fall sports, we have been helped tremendously by input from presidents, athletics directors, conference commissioners and athletic trainers. Your insights and suggestions have been instrumental to the process of establishing policies and guidelines for return to play.

To provide this needed guidance, the Council of Presidents (COP) Executive Committee met yesterday and the following national office recommendations were approved:

  1. Return to Play Threshold

The COP Executive Committee approved the use of a threshold system as a guideline for determining return to play. The threshold goal is for about half the participating institutions in each sport to receive clearance from local authorities to return to competition before the season can begin. For example, NAIA football has 95 participating institutions. When half (47) of these programs gain clearance from authorities to play, the NAIA football season will be authorized to begin.

The rationale for this decision is that a significant number of institutions need to participate to offer student-athletes a significant competitive and championship-caliber experience. Additionally, the fewer the number of participating programs, the higher the likelihood for scheduling challenges leading to increased travel costs and missed class time.

  1. Start Dates

Based on input from NAIA presidents, AD’s, commissioners, athletics trainers and health care professionals, the COP Executive Committee approved the recommendation of practice and competition start dates for each sport. The practice start date for all sports, will be Saturday, August 15. As a result, from today through August 14, any activities deemed practice by the NAIA are strictly prohibited. (Click here for NAIA definition of practice.)

We know many NAIA campuses may be engaging in conditioning activities now or plan to as we get closer to August 15. These conditioning activities, as long as they are not “practices”, are not restricted and can take place at any time, in keeping with any institutional guidelines.

Beginning on August 15, student-athletes may practice consistent with any health and safety protocols your institution deems necessary. While practices can begin August 15, only individuals identified with your institution can participate in these practices. No scrimmages, exhibitions, or competitions of any kind that involve individuals not identified with your institution may take place prior to the competition start date listed below.

Competition start dates are as follows:

  • All sports except football:September 5 (providing 3 weeks of practice prior to competition)
  • Football:September 12 (providing 4 weeks of practice prior to competition)

Please note: these start dates apply to all sports that schedule practices or competitions in the fall, regardless of when the regular season is played.

The rationale behind the selection of these dates is to provide an adequate acclimatization, conditioning and practice period prior to competition for each sport, while minimizing the need for student-athletes to return to campus early. Establishing start dates also creates a more level playing field for all institutions that are able to compete this fall.

  1. Maximum Contests Allowed

With the delayed start dates, there are fewer weeks to complete the season. As a result, the COP Executive Committee approved a reduction in the maximum number of contests as follows:

  • Cross Country:7 meets, down from 8
  • Football:9 games, down from 11
  • Men’s and Women’s Soccer:14 games, down from 18
  • Women’s Volleyball:22 dates, down from 28

The reductions are proportional to the shortened seasons and are consistent with recent feedback from presidents, athletics directors, and commissioners expressing a desire to reduce regular season costs.

Currently, the NAIA intends to host all fall national championship events as currently scheduled. Obviously we cannot predict what will happen in the next six months, but we are optimistic that the championships will be hosted as planned.

Finally, we know the health and safety of our student-athletes is imperative if we are to host fall sports. The national office and the COP Executive Committee are currently examining various options for health and safety protocols, including testing and screening, and will share decisions related to these areas as soon as they are made.

While our focus is currently on fall sports, we know there are already concerns related to the winter sport season. At this time, there are no planned changes for winter sports. We will begin to evaluate the possible impact of COVID-19 on the winter season and prioritize any decisions that will help our institutions prepare for possible adjustments, if necessary.

We hope this information provides guidance to help you plan accordingly for fall athletics. There is no precedent regarding athletics during a pandemic, so we must all be guided by what is best for the greater good of our members and our student-athletes. The COP Executive Committee is meeting weekly in June and we will continue to share decisions as they are made.

Thank you.

Arvid C. Johnson, PhD
Chair, NAIA Council of Presidents
President, University of St. Francis

Jim Carr
NAIA President and CEO

Copyright © Rocking M Media, 2020. All Rights Reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced without Rocking M Media’s express consent.

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