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MIAA awaits NCAA decision regarding fall sports

Brandon Zenner
St. Joseph News-Press

With each passing day, the landscape of college sports in 2020 changes.

Officials and member schools of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association await a decision in the coming weeks from the NCAA regarding the status of fall athletics and championships with conferences unveiling their plans for the upcoming year. Conferences have taken every approach from delaying the fall slate by one month to outright postponing all competition until the winter and spring.

Following the MIAA's decision last week to postpone practices and contests by multiple weeks, commissioner Mike Racy is optimistic it can set a trend in Division II, while prioritizing the health and safety of student-athletes, coaches and fans.

"I'm hopeful that we have a strong number of Division II conferences that play football to make this work," Racy said. "If we do, I think the NCAA will try to keep football in the fall, especially if health conditions across the country start to improve.

"I'm hopeful the MIAA announcement may influence a few of the conferences around the country to do what we're doing."

As of Tuesday, six of the 16 Division II conferences that sponsor football have suspended fall sports with plans at the minimum of discussing a spring return. That includes the Pennsylvania State, Central, Southern, Northeast-10, Great Northwest and Great Lakes Valley.

Those conferences made up nine of the 28 competitors in the Division II Football Championship. In Super Region 1 and 2, two of the four conferences have opted out of 2020 competition.

Prior to the GLVC's announcement Monday, the other five conferences are primarily coastal schools with areas hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. Made up of schools from Indiana, Illinois and Missouri, the GLVC brought the idea of eliminating fall sports to the midwest.

The NCAA Board of Governors met Friday to begin discussions on the status of fall championships, which begin in late November. While it's unsure how rulings will come down and if they will differ in Division I and II, no decisions have been made with discussion to continue in August.

"We all remain deeply concerned about the infection trend lines we see," NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement. "It is clear that the format of our championships will have to change if they are to be conducted in a safe and fair manner."

"The NCAA's monitoring what's going on because they don't wanna host a national championship if only two or three conferences play in those sports," Racy added. "That wouldn't be a real meaningful season."

Multiple conferences have taken similar routes as the MIAA, including the Gulf South, South Atlantic, Great American, Lone Star and Northern Sun and Great Lakes. All conferences have announced either start dates in late September or conference-only scheduling.

"We're positioned that if the health conditions dictate, we can play everything in the fall and the NCAA Championship is in the fall, it will look fairly normal to MIAA fans," Racy said. "If the NCAA moves championships and we need to spread out our schedule between two semesters, even though that'll look weird and feel strange, we'll do it."

Decisions will be made in the coming weeks that could see either alterations and reductions to fall championships in 2020 or the movement of postseasons to spring 2021. From it could come greater issues, especially at smaller universities, in staff limitations, transportation, costs and facility scheduling.

With professional sports ramping up and high schools adamant on a normal fall season, what the NCAA's final decision will look like is to be determined.