KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI – The NAIA announced an update Thursday evening looking towards the fall sports season for 2020 as they work towards resuming competition after a halt to play in March due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The NAIA's Council of President (COP) Executive Committee approved three national office recommendations that included a return to play threshold, start dates, and maximum contests allowed for fall sports.

The return to play threshold goal is for about half the participating institutions in each sport to receive clearance from local authorities to return to competition before the season can begin. For example, NAIA football has 95 participating institutions. When half (47) of these programs gain clearance from authorities to play, the NAIA football season will be authorized to begin.

 

According to the NAIA, "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 of scheduling challenges leading to increased travel costs and missed class time."

Based on input from NAIA presidents, AD's, commissioners, athletics trainers, and health care professionals, the COP Executive Committee approved the recommendation of practice and competition start dates for each sport. The practice start date for all sports will be Saturday, August 15. As a result, from today through August 14, any activities deemed practice by the NAIA are strictly prohibited.

Beginning on August 15, student-athletes may practice consistent with any health and safety protocols your institution deems necessary. While practices can begin on August 15, only individuals identified with your institution can participate in these practices. No scrimmages, exhibitions, or competitions of any kind that involve individuals not identified with your institution may take place prior to the competition start date listed below.

Competition start dates are as follows:

All sports except football: September 5 (providing 3 weeks of practice prior to competition)

Football: September 12 (providing 4 weeks of practice prior to competition)

According to the NAIA, "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."

With the delayed start dates, there are fewer weeks to complete the season. As a result, the COP Executive Committee approved a reduction in the maximum number of contests as follows:

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 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.

Currently, the NAIA intends to host all fall national championship events as currently scheduled.

At this time, there are no planned changes for winter sports. The NAIA will begin to evaluate the possible impact of COVID-19 on the winter season and prioritize any decisions that will help our institutions prepare for possible adjustments, if necessary.

Union College, the Appalachian Athletic Conference, and the Mid-South Conference will move forward with fall sports schedules that will be released when decisions become finalized. Union will continue to follow all of the guidelines recommended for the health and safety of our student-athletes.

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