By: Con Marshall, CSC Athletics
The surprising (at least to fans) announcement late last week that the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference is suspending the fall seasons for football and volleyball probably won’t be the last word, according to Joel Smith, the Chadron State College athletic director.
More discussions are scheduled and some changes are anticipated as the NCAA, the conferences and the schools try to do what is best for the student-athletes and the athletic programs, he added.
Smith, who is chairman of the RMAC’s Competition Committee, said Monday morning that he already had four zoom meetings scheduled for this week, two of them at the national level and two at the conference level.
“We’re all trying to do the right thing,” Smith said. “We had to make the announcement last week because we had too many questions that were going to take some time to answer. He said they included testing for COVID-19, insurance coverage in case athletes are affected, eligibility of the athletes and scholarships.
The RMAC announcement said the fall sports competition would be moved to the spring, but that also spawned numerous questions, particularly concerning football because of weather implications.
Just a week earlier, the RMAC Presidents’ Council announced that conference-only contests would be played this fall, beginning Sept. 18 and 19. The Presidents’ Council also made last week’s decision suspending the fall football, volleyball and soccer seasons, but allowing cross county and golf to be played this fall because they are considered “low risk” sports.
Several other Division II conferences had made similar announcements prior to the RMAC decision. Now, it appears that all DII conferences have decided to forego competition in the “high risk” sports this fall.
Earlier last week, the NCAA Board of Governors and the DII Presidents’ Council mandated that no fall sports national championships will take place in 2020.
While much remains uncertain, Smith said it’s possible football teams this fall may emulate what they’ve been doing in the spring and then play a limited schedule of games in the spring.
“There’s no way football will play 10 games in the spring and then play another 10 in the fall (of 2021), after we certainly hope everything is back to normal,” Smith said.
He added that after visiting with some of his colleagues Monday, it seems probable that volleyball will switch nearly everything that usually takes place in the fall to spring.
NCAA rules state that coaches may have instructional contact with their athletes a total of 103 days annually. In the past for football, 15 of those days have been utilized in the spring and the remainder in the fall.
Smith added that the NCAA previously had decided that all athletes would have to take COVID tests through their nostrils 72 hours before the contests began. The process is expensive, but Smith said Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts had stated the state would assist with those costs.
Other members of RMAC had not received similar assurances at last report, Smith said.
He also stated that the colleges’ current insurance does not cover payments for care necessitated by the virus, making it another item that likely will have to be settled before any competition takes place.
Chadron State Head Football Coach Jay Long called the scenario “pretty crazy.”
“As coaches, we try to plan and be well organized and then things become so uncertain,” Long added. “That’s just the way things have happened.”
Long said at least 40 and maybe as many as 60 CSC football players have been living in Chadron this summer and working out four or five times a week on their own to get ready for the season.
Some of them went home on Friday when they found out there would be no fall camp, which had been scheduled to start on Friday the 14th following the announcement that the Eagles’ first game would be Sept. 19 against South Dakota Mines in Rapid City.
Long said he is hopeful that all of the players will be back this week to be ready when classes begin on Monday. He and his assistants plan to meet with each of the players individually. By then, more information may be available.
Long said some of those nearing graduation may decide not to play if the schedule remains unsettled. The NCAA has determined athletes who decide not to play because of the virus, but remain in school will retain their athletic scholarships.
Football players will be allowed to participate in up to five games before they would use a year of eligibility, Smith said. Similar rules are established for volleyball and other sports.
Chadron State hosted two three-day high school football team camps with nearly 800 participants and two one-day prospect camps, all in July, and received no reports of any COVID-19 problems following them, Long reported.
CSC also hosted volleyball and softball camps during the past month with no negative consequences.