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After the spring sports season was canceled at Bethel College, administrators are hoping the fall season can still go forward.
“All of it on the front end is all hypothetical, because it all can change,” Bethel athletic director Tony Hoops said. “From the NAIA perspective, they want to make a decision by July 1. From all indications, if some parts of the country can participate and others can’t, they will not limit others. If there are enough schools that can be a part of national championships, then they will still have them, which is good for us and good for the entire governing body. We’re waiting to hear back from them and Jim Carr, the president and CEO of the NAIA. They are reaching out to all the conferences and trying to get feedback as best as they can.”
Hoops is a member of a task force with the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, of which Bethel is a member, to try and figure out what the fall sports season will look like.
“As of right now, we have three contingency plans developed,” Hoops said. “The first of that would be normal, what ever normal exists. It would be the normal report dates, which for the KCAC is Aug. 8 and proceed from there with games starting in mid to late August. The second would be a plan B and plan C. There, we would be looking at shrinking the number of games — probably eliminating non-conference games and pushing back when the season starts. There is even the thought of ‘should we start earlier’ because of a second wave coming through in November or December, because we don’t know. We’re trying to figure out all these different things, but I think the earliest the KCAC would start is Aug. 8, which is where we’re currently at.”
Hoops said the conference is working with its athletic trainers and the county health departments of the counties the member schools to determine factors such as testing and monitoring student-athletes while also on campus.
“That’s not just from an athlete standpoint, but from a student-life standpoint as well,” Hoops said. “How do you check fevers? How do you check symptoms so that you don’t have an outbreak on campus from close contact? … That also is about how do you get kids back on campus? How do you do instruction? As Mark Emmert said with the NCAA, ‘If we can’t do (on-campus) instruction, then you can’t do sports.’ ”
Conditioning would be a big question for Bethel. With campuses closed for the spring, weight rooms and conditioning rooms also were closed.
“Today was the first day we could open the weight room, and then it’s restricted to 10 at a time,” Hoops said. “It’s not about Aug. 8, but what June 1 looks like. … A lot of it is self-accountability. They are college athletes. If I was a high school coach, I’d be more concerned, but if you are a college athlete, you’re used to working out. The mind of a college athlete is different — especially the older ones. They are going to find a way to get into a gym. They are going to do things to keep in shape. It may not be at the level that’s typically done.
“In some ways, that might be a good thing. Some athletes may be used to group accountability. This will make them more self-accountable. Coaches are still administering workouts, using technology such as filming yourself or logging into the workout. At the end of the day, you will find out.”
While most discussion about college sports at the NCAA level has centered around whether or not fans can attend, Hoops said the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, which regulates Bethel’s athletic department, has a different mission.
“I’ve said this all along, the NCAA needs sports because they need fans and they need the revenue,” Hoops said. “The NAIA needs sports because they need students on their campuses. The two are operating in vary different realms right now. In spring, we canceled because everybody canceled. In the NAIA for fall, we’re talking about do you have fans or not have fans. Right now, we’re not making that determination. Some of that lies in if people want to attend games or do they not.”
While some NCAA conferences were exploring the possibility of playing college football in the spring, Hoops said that would be a non-starter in the NAIA and KCAC because of the increased demand on facilities.
The loss of spring sports at Bethel did cause a slight loss to the budget. Bethel doesn’t charge admission for most of its spring sports regular-season events.
“We saved some money in some areas and lost some in other areas,” Hoops said. “We ultimately lost more money than we gained from it, but not at a high volume. The downfall would be at the institutional level and if we lost the fall sports season.”