MIAA suspends fall sports competitions until Jan. 1; Winter decision expected by Oct. 1

KEARNEY – The Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association CEO Council announced today the suspension of 2020 fall sports due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The University of Nebraska at Kearney sports affected are football, volleyball, women’s soccer and men’s and women’s cross country. Women’s golf and women’s tennis, in their non-championship season, are also affected as all fall sports are suspended until Jan. 1. The Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference is permitting the sport of women’s swimming and diving to compete first semester. The UNK Aqualopers are an affiliate member of the RMAC.

Marc Bauer
Marc Bauer

“Today’s announcement to postpone the fall season was obviously a difficult decision and one not made lightly,” UNK Athletic Director Marc Bauer said. “Our primary responsibility is always to do what’s right and what’s in the best interest of our students and staff, community and those associated with our athletics programs. We care deeply about our students, and this is painful for everyone who has been working for them.

“I am most proud of our coaches and staff and their efforts to help them have a successful year. I have also been encouraged by the leadership from the MIAA conference commissioner, Mike Racy. His team helped lead the original charge in Division II to delay the fall start and not make a quick decision to end things early, as many of the conferences had done.”

The emergency action by the MIAA comes as a result of the pandemic, the NCAA announcement to cancel fall national championships and the recently released NCAA Board of Governors’ directives.

“The persistence of COVID cases in our MIAA communities and the potential for undue risk of exposure to our campus and community are relevant factors that have led to an informed decision by our campus administrators,” Bauer said. “The conference’s decision to suspend the fall season for sports comes after the recent announcement from the NCAA, which allows our teams more flexibility for structure around athletics-related activities, such as practices and meetings. We are encouraged by the decision because it will enable our coaches to continue to stay connected and engaged with our student-athletes in meaningful ways. Our focus is on our student-athletes and our communities, and without college sports, I am concerned about how this will affect those who are directly involved and connected with Loper Athletics.”

On July 20, the MIAA announced a fall sports delay until Oct. 1. That plan would have allowed four cross country meets, seven games for football, 10 games for women’s soccer and 15 matches for volleyball. The season for all three was to end in late November, with practices starting on Aug. 31. The MIAA will continue to explore the possibility of a limited number of competitions in football, volleyball and women’s soccer in the spring, as permitted by the NCAA.

“The health and well-being of MIAA student-athletes, coaches, administrators and our communities continues to be the Association’s top priority,” stated President Steve Scott of Pittsburg State University, chairperson of the MIAA CEO Council. “The MIAA is taking these important actions today to help our athletic departments comply with these new NCAA membership requirements, and to assist our campuses as we continue to address this public health crisis.”

All UNK teams, along with the rest of the MIAA, were prohibited from holding any type of practice (in-season or out-of-season), weight training, meetings, film sessions or voluntary workouts. Those restrictions are now lifted for all sports, provided each institution’s ability to comply with the Aug. 11 NCAA Policy Clarifications document regarding the requirements for each division to conduct fall sports (non-competition) activities.

The Lopers will announce practice times for fall sports at a later date. They will be “out-of-season” and thus allowed eight hours of meetings/practices a week.

UNK Sports Medicine will continue its daily screening process for all student-athletes who plan to take part in any type of workout using on-campus facilities. Those policies and procedures have been in place since the start of voluntary workouts on June 1.

Twenty of Division II’s 23 conferences have canceled fall sports or are moving them to the spring. The remaining leagues will announce their plans by next week.

“The MIAA CEO Council will continue to monitor this fluid and evolving situation for college athletics, and make necessary changes to this plan per updated NCAA guidance and restrictions,” Racy stated.

The MIAA will delay a decision on the winter sports competition schedule until Oct. 1 at the latest. That affects UNK men’s and women’s basketball, wrestling and men’s and women’s indoor track and field.

“We come to work every day with the hope of serving and providing our student-athletes with the best possible experience, which includes practicing and competing for championships. Prior to today’s announcement, we were already faced with many changes and challenges that created uncertainty and obstacles that are uncharacteristic of a typical season, such as modified schedules, the cancellation of championships and rigorous testing protocols,” Bauer said. “In the coming weeks, we will continue to work closely with our team physician, Dr. Brad Rodgers, campus health officials and local and state health departments for guidance as we navigate through this unprecedented time together.”

MIAA leadership at member institutions will also continue to work together and seek guidance on the NCAA Board of Governors’ directives and the Resocialization of Collegiate Sport Guidelines. The Association will continue to place the health, safety and well-being of MIAA student-athletes, coaches and administrators as its top priority.

Comments from Loper head fall sports coaches:

UNK Head Football Coach Josh Lynn

“Among all the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic for the last several months, our top priority has clearly been and will always be ensuring the health and well-being of our young men. Our athletic department administrators and Chancellor Kristensen have explored every avenue to try to get our student-athletes back on the field. With that in mind, the MIAA and NCAA concluded that this action was necessary. Obviously, there are details that need to be addressed but safety was foremost on everyone’s mind when making this decision and we know our fans share that same commitment.

“I am supportive of this decision and know that it was made in conjunction with the MIAA and is in the best interest of our student-athletes. I am extremely proud of our players on the way they handled all the uncertainties these last six months. These young men love competing for the Lopers and have worked hard to continue to improve our football team.”

UNK Head Volleyball Coach Rick Squiers

“In what we hoped could be another run at a national championship, our team is obviously disappointed in the loss of that opportunity for 2020. Our players and coaches will remain resilient and committed to making the most of fall training with the hope that some competition might be possible in the spring of 2021. We look forward to representing UNK and the community of Kearney under the current circumstances, but also greatly anticipate the day we can do so again on the playing court.”

UNK Head Women’s Soccer Coach Chloe Roberts

“It is difficult to hear this news. However, I am in full support of the decision made by the MIAA and UNK knowing that their No. 1 priority has always been the health and well-being of our student-athletes. I would like to personally thank all of the administration here at UNK for the hard work they have put in through this difficult time. I am saddened our players won’t be able to showcase their talents through competition but I am excited I still get to help them grow and develop through practice. We will work hard this year to return stronger and hungrier in 2021.”

UNK Head Cross Country Coach Brady Bonsall

“Our program is proud of the remarkable effort displayed by our distance runners this summer in preparation for the cross country season after their outdoor track and field season was canceled in the spring. My focus all summer has been on the health and well-being of the student-athletes in our program, and I believe competing in Loper blue this fall would have been tremendously beneficial to them. We are grateful for the bold efforts of our campus leaders as they advocated for all of our fall sports throughout this process. Personally, I look forward to the beginning of the academic year and working with students face to face on the UNK campus. We will continue to show resiliency and will look forward to competing in the future.”