NSIC commissioner says league not yet ready to 'pump the brakes' on fall sports
MOORHEAD — The Ivy League canceled all sports for the fall semester earlier this week, while the Big Ten Conference announced Thursday that it would play conference-only games next fall due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Two NCAA Division II leagues, one based in Atlanta and one in Charlotte, N.C., both announced the suspension of their fall sports.
The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, however, isn’t yet ready to make a drastic change to its fall seasons after the league concluded its summer meetings Thursday.
“There are leagues across the country that are deciding to pump the brakes on the fall already and we’re just not to that place yet,” NSIC commissioner Erin Lind said. “We’re still making positive strides and feeling pretty good about things.”
The NSIC already had to alter its schedules for the upcoming school year after the NCAA Division II Presidents Council decided to reduce the minimum and maximum number of required contests for sports sponsorship in May due to COVID-19.
After that decision, the NSIC pushed back the start to its football season about week, trimming its 11-game regular season to 10. Minnesota State Moorhead is scheduled to start the football regular season Sept. 12 at home against Winona State. The Dragons also sponsor volleyball, cross country, women’s golf and women’s soccer in the fall.
The Dragons women’s soccer team is scheduled to play Concordia on Aug. 26 in an exhibition game. MSUM is also slated to host a cross country meet on Sept. 11
“We are preparing to make sure that we are ready to go, but at the same time we all understand that outside factors and this pandemic can make us change our direction,” MSUM athletic director Doug Peters said. “I’m an eternal optimist so I am focusing on what can happen and what I can control. That is where my focus is at.”
Lind said the league will have “high-level” conversations on a more frequent basis in the coming weeks to prepare for the fall sports season. There is a meeting of school presidents and athletic directors scheduled for July 20 and an administrative meeting slated for July 23.
Lind said an additional meeting could be added the week after those two if needed.
“We are planning that we are going to start football games on Sept. 12,” Lind said. “We’ve got to be flexible and nimble and we’ve got to be able to pivot when we need to pivot. Right now, we don’t get the sense that we need to pivot. … There are definitely hurdles that we still have to manage.”
COVID-19 testing is one of those hurdles, with issues that include affordability, accuracy and access for all 16 conference members in five different states.
“Affordability and access that could be a tremendous range in our league,” Lind said of coronavirus testing. “It may vary from what can happen at Fayette (Iowa) to what can happen up at MSUM.”
NSIC schools have had athletes back on campus for voluntary workouts this summer after COVID-19 forced campus shutdowns last March. The Dragons started their on-campus workouts in mid-June.
“That’s making (schools) have to test the protocols and procedures so those are all good things in an effort to get students back on campus,” Lind said. “A lot of people just want answers, but we’re doing our best, as long as our student-athletes and our coaches are going to be in safe space, we want to compete in the fall.”