NAIA sets guidelines for return to play

Mark Schnabel

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics has announced its plans to return to play for the fall of 2020.

Bethel College and the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference are NAIA members.

The guidelines were approved last week by the NAIA Council of Presidents Executive Committee. Three recommendations were approved.

The biggest impact of the guidelines is the reduction of the number of contests allowed for fall sports teams.

The maximum contests allowed is listed below:

• 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 new limits would eliminate nonconference games in football (unless the conference agrees not to play a full-round robin schedule).

Just two nonconference games would be available in soccer. If single round-robin play in a dual-meet format is retained in volleyball, there would be just 10 dates available for nonconference play.

“The KCAC is currently working with its school officials to determine what exactly this means for scheduling and fall sports,” said Josh Booth, Bethel assistant athletic director and sports information director. “An official announcement concerning each fall sport and the conference scheduling will be coming soon.”

“Throughout this week each sport is working with KCAC AD’s to create what the new schedule looks like,” Bethel AD Tony Hoops added. “In most cases not much will change besides some nonconference games not existing. However, in some sports, including football, it gets much more complicated.”

According to the NAIA release, “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.”

All post-season competition is still scheduled for the fall season.

The return to play threshold will be when one half of member schools that sponsor a sport are cleared to return to play.

In football, that will be 47 teams. The threshold would be about 175 in women’s soccer and 94 in men’s soccer, 131 women’s volleyball teams, 162 women’s cross country teams and 108 men’s cross country teams.

According to the NAIA release, “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.”

The approved start date for practices is Aug. 5, while the competition start dates are as follows:

Football: Sept. 12 provided teams have four weeks of practice.

All other sports: Sept. 5 provided teams have three weeks of practice.

According to the release, “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.”

All postseason competition is still scheduled for the fall season.