By TODD GOTTULA
KEARNEY – The University of Nebraska at Kearney is delaying the start of fall sports competition to Sept. 28 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
UNK and Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association officials announced the decision today. It was approved unanimously by chancellors and presidents of the conference’s 14 schools.
Football, volleyball, cross country, women’s golf, women’s soccer and women’s tennis will all start about one month later than anticipated. Student-athletes at UNK and all MIAA schools will report for fall camp and begin practices Aug. 31. UNK has 420 student-athletes.
“This is very challenging and creates some difficulties, but delaying the start of our seasons gives us hope that there will be games this fall,” said UNK Athletic Director Marc Bauer. “We need sports on this campus and in our community because it pulls us together. It’s been an empty feeling the last four months with no practices or games. At the same time, we know we have to move forward in a way that’s safe and protects the health of everybody.”
The NCAA has approved a new rule that fall sports may have split seasons, with teams playing a portion of their schedules one semester and competing for championships in another. The MIAA is not canceling early-season games, but rather starting the season later. The MIAA will address scheduling of conference championships at a later date, after the NCAA Division II Administrative Council determines regional and championship dates, said Bauer.
“Our plan right now is to pick up games we lose in the fall and finish our seasons by playing those games in the spring,” said Bauer. “Most indications are that the NCAA will move championships to the spring.”
Under the current plan:
- UNK football will play seven games in the fall and open its season Oct. 3 at home against Missouri Western. The Lopers first three previously-scheduled games – against Northwest Missouri State, Lincoln University and Central Missouri – will be moved and played in the spring.
- The UNK volleyball team will open Oct. 2 with a home match against Northwest Missouri State. The team’s five matches scheduled for September will be moved to the spring.
- The Loper women’s soccer team opens Oct. 2 at home against Newman University and will move its four games scheduled in September to the spring.
- Schedules for women’s tennis, women’s golf and cross country are still being put together and finalized.
“We need to be flexible because there is still so much uncertainty,” said Bauer. “We’ll work together as a university and conference to give our student-athletes and fans the best experience possible. I’ve asked our coaches and athletes to be leaders through this process.”
Nine of the 23 conferences in NCAA Division II have canceled fall seasons, but UNK officials don’t expect the NCAA to cancel fall sports, said Bauer. “UNK and the MIAA is committed to a strong experience for our student-athletes, and we are ready to play games this fall.”
The MIAA said the ability to execute its plan is dependent on students, employees and fans demonstrating socially responsible behavior. The conference also stressed that student-athletes continue to practice socially responsible behavior to help protect the health of their teams.
“This plan allows our student-athletes to get back on campus and get acclimated with the student body before we begin practices and competition,” said MIAA Commissioner Mike Racy. “We remain hopeful that the MIAA student-athletes will be able to practice and compete this fall, but we need to be patient and make sure that we are doing that in a healthy and safe environment for our student-athletes, coaches and administrators.”
Campus leadership at all MIAA schools will meet again Aug. 3 to further discuss the conference’s plan.
UNK Football Schedule 2020
Oct. 3 – Missouri Western, 1 p.m. (Cope Stadium)
Oct. 10 – Pittsburg State, 2 p.m. (Cope Stadium)
Oct. 17 – at Washburn, 1 p.m.
Oct. 24 – Central Oklahoma, 2 p.m. (Cope Stadium)
Oct. 31 – at Northeastern State, 2 p.m.
Nov. 7 – at Missouri Southern, 2 p.m.
Nov. 14 – Fort Hays State, 1 p.m. (Cope Stadium)
Spring TBD – Northwest Missouri State (Cope Stadium)
Spring TBD – at Lincoln University
Spring TBD – at Central Missouri
UNK Volleyball Schedule 2020-21
Oct. 2 – Northwest Missouri State, 6 p.m. (Health and Sports Center
Oct. 3 – Missouri Western, TBD (Health and Sports Center)
Oct. 9 – at Central Missouri, 6 p.m.
Oct. 13 – at Washburn, 6 p.m.
Oct. 16 – Pittsburg State, 6 p.m. (Health and Sports Center)
Oct. 17 – Missouri Southern, 1 p.m. (Health and Sports Center)
Oct. 17 – neutral vs Fort Hays State, 7 p.m. (TBD)
Oct. 20 – at Emporia State, 6 p.m.
Oct. 24 – Central Oklahoma, 11 a.m. (Wichita, Kansas)
Oct. 24 – at Newman, 8 p.m. (Wichita, Kansas)
Oct. 30 – at Missouri Western, 7 p.m.
Oct. 31 – at Northwest Missouri State, 6 p.m.
Nov. 7 – Central Missouri, 3 p.m. (Health and Sports Center)
Nov. 13 – at Missouri Southern, 6 p.m.
Nov. 14 – at Pittsburg State, TBD
Spring TBD – Fort Hays State (Health and Sports Center)
Spring TBD – Emporia State (Health and Sports Center)
Spring TBD – Washburn (Health and Sports Center)
Spring TBD – at Newman (Hays, Kansas)
Spring TBD – at Central Oklahoma
UNK Women’s Soccer Schedule 2020
Oct. 2 – Newman University, 2 p.m. (Cope Stadium)
Oct. 4 – Central Oklahoma, 1 p.m. (Cope Stadium)
Oct. 9 – Northwest Missouri State, 5:30 p.m. (Cope Stadium)
Oct. 11 – Missouri Western, 1 p.m. (Cope Stadium)
Oct. 16 – at Missouri Southern, TBD
Oct. 18 – at Central Missouri, 1 p.m.
Oct. 23 – at Northeastern State, TBD
Oct. 25 – at Rogers State, TBD
Oct. 30 or Nov. 1 – Fort Hays State, TBD (Cope Stadium)
Spring TBD – Central Community College – Columbus (Cope Stadium)
Spring TBD – Washburn (Cope Stadium)
Spring TBD – at Fort Hays State
Spring TBD – Emporia State (Cope Stadium)
Spring TBD – Washburn (Cope Stadium)