Huntington University Soccer, Cross Country, and Volleyball all await a return to competition. Photo via HU Athletics.
Huntington, Ind. (FDN) – Despite plans to release an update on July 1st, the NAIA has released their initial decisions regarding the fall 2020 athletic seasons.
On March 16th, the NAIA shut down all competitions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They have been spending the last few months holding weekly discussions and communicating with several athletic departments to determine the best course of action.
They have released three major changes.
There is now a return to play threshold. Each NAIA sport must have half of the teams cleared by the local authorities to begin competition. The NAIA used football as an example. There are 95 programs, so 47 must be cleared to have an official NAIA season.
There are mandatory start dates for practice and competition. Official practice can begin on August 15th for all fall sports. All of Huntington University’s fall sports being competing on September 5th.
The biggest change is a cap on the amount of competitions allowed. Cross Country will be given a limit of 7 meets instead of 8, Soccer will be capped at 14 games, rather than 18, and Volleyball will drop from 28 to 22.
The NAIA also announced they still intend to hold national championships, and that the winter sports seasons currently have no changes.
The committee acknowledged the unpredictability of the pandemic and how these plans are subject to change, however many schools are depending on the fall season.
In a survey involving 168 presidents of NAIA competing schools, 90 responded saying that holding a fall 2020 season was critical to the financial viability of their institution.
Despite the dire situation, there appears to be slight confidence among the athletic departments moving forward, as 60% of the athletic directors surveyed believe the COVID-19 pandemic will not impact their sponsored sports.
The latest official comment as well as the survey data can be found here: https://www.naia.org/covid19/index