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NAIA creates options, delays fall championships
COLLEGE SPORTS

NAIA creates options, delays fall championships

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It may take the soccer teams at St. Ambrose longer to achieve their goals, but coach Jon Mannall welcomes knowing that the Fighting Bees will have a chance to chase those goals.

The NAIA announced Tuesday evening plans to postpone national championships in men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball until the spring of 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This answers some of the questions we’ve all been having," Mannall said. "Some of the details will be worked out in the upcoming days and weeks, but to know that we will have a season is a good step forward."

The decision reached by the NAIA Council of Presidents will provide programs with some flexibility, giving conferences and institutions the chance to compete during both the fall and spring semesters if they choose to do so or delay schedules until the spring.

The NAIA has not yet reached a decision on the timing of its national football championship playoffs but will address that during a Council of Presidents meeting scheduled for Friday.

The group chaired by Dr. Arvid Johnson, the president of St. Francis (Ill.), wanted more time to seek feedback from colleagues because of the unique challenges surrounding football and its postseason playoff structure.

“Given the fast-paced and constantly changing nature of the current environment, the (presidents’ group) recognized that the likelihood of safely completing the fall sports season has decreased significantly," Anderson said.

"This decision allows conferences to consider the regional impact of COVID-19 when determining the appropriate time for regular season competition."

St. Ambrose is a member of the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference in all fall sports with the exception of football, which competes in the Mid-States Football Association.

Mannall said CCAC administrators will likely discuss just what the league’s schedule in traditional fall sports will look like in upcoming days.

He is hopeful schools will be given the opportunity to split schedules between semesters, allowing games to be spread out over a longer timeframe.

"That would be ideal, and would give us some time to deal with any issues that might come up, but those decisions will come down the road," Mannall said. "The health and safety of our student-athletes remains our priority."

Prior to Tuesday’s decision, 51 NAIA institutions had already announced plans to postpone fall competition until the spring of 2021.

Others, including the Heart of America Athletic Conference which includes Clarke, Mount Mercy, William Penn, Grand View and Graceland in Iowa, announced last week intentions to compete this fall as scheduled.

Mannall said St. Ambrose soccer student-athletes are scheduled to arrive on campus on Aug. 9, beginning a quarantine period with their teams that will include testing. Practices for NAIA programs currently can begin on Aug. 15.

NAIA president Jim Carr said that some temporary rule changes and accommodations relating to eligibility and seasons of competition will be necessary to facilitate the postponement of the fall championships.

The changes will likely be similar to those made last spring when no spring 2020 athletes were charged a season of competition when the NAIA canceled its spring sports seasons in March.

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