Modified spring scheduling concepts for Central College’s four postponed fall sports are taking shape.
Football, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball seasons for American Rivers Conference schools were postponed Aug. 11 due to health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as complex return-to-play requirements outlined in the NCAA Action Plan. Competition is proceeding this fall in Central men’s and women’s cross country, women’s golf, women’s tennis and triathlon with adjusted schedules.
The conference now intends to tentatively schedule three league football games in the spring with the option for institutions to play as many as five games. No conference champion will be determined. A round-robin schedule of eight conference games to determine league champions is proposed for men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball, with an option of playing non-conference contests. No postseason conference tournaments will be conducted, and the NCAA earlier canceled all Division III fall sports championships. Junior varsity contests in each of the four sports will be permitted.
Schedules will not be announced until each of the league institutions’ spring academic calendars are finalized. Those schedules could be altered if conditions warrant. Institutions are free to opt out of competition at any point and Central President Mark Putnam said while developing plans is prudent, those plans could change.
“The health and well-being of each student-athlete will always be our primary concern,” Putnam said. “It is our hope that we can provide some limited competition opportunities in these four sports and do so in a safe and responsible manner. However, we will remain careful and deliberate in our approach as we continue to learn and evaluate in all aspects of campus life on a daily basis. How we proceed will be dictated by numerous factors, including conditions on campus, in Marion County, in Iowa and beyond, as well as NCAA requirements and the availability, efficiency and affordability of enhanced testing procedures.”
Teams will participate in less than 50% of each sport’s maximum contest/dates of competition, ensuring student-athletes the option of extending their collegiate athletics careers by one season. On July 8 the NCAA Division III Administrative Committee approved a recommendation from the Division III Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement to provide a blanket waiver in all sports that are unable to reach the 50% threshold. Amending the criteria for a season-participation waiver ensures that student-athletes retain the opportunity to have four full seasons of participation opportunities.
Central recently announced the winter athletics season will not start until after Jan. 1, allowing the college to focus on safely concluding the fall sports campaigns while giving staff and winter sports teams additional time to implement NCAA-endorsed resocialization practices as well as enhanced testing procedures. Winter sport schedules are not yet finalized.
Central teams in the four postponed fall sports are currently staging tightly structured small-group workouts. No scrimmaging or physical contact are yet permitted.
Central follows safety guidelines and protocols as established by the Iowa Department of Public Health, Marion County Public Health, the Pella Regional Health Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Central collaborates with medical professionals to help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread. The athletics department is under the guidance of its physician, the college’s senior leadership team and state and local health agencies. Central is also relying on guidelines outlined in the NCAA’s “Resocialization of Collegiate Sport: Developing Standards for Practice and Competition” document.
Updates and resources from the college’s efforts to sustain a healthy community can be accessed at central.edu/health.