BELOIT—Beloit College sports fans were likely put on alert recently when Midwest Conference member Grinnell College chose to pull the plug on its fall sports programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
By the end of last week, though, the MWC had put out a statement indicating it was still planning on hosting intercollegiate athletic competition for the fall 2020 season barring changes in infection rates in the Midwest.
The when and the how are what is yet to be determined.
“Right now we’re creating all the procedures and the policies to make it possible,” Beloit Athletic Director Dave DeGeorge said. “We’re meeting as an overall group of athletic directors and we’re meeting in sub-committees. At this point, final decisions haven’t been made, but recommendations are.”
The ADs, along with administrators, faculty and athletic trainers are working throughout the summer to develop health and safety guidelines for the upcoming fall season regarding testing, screening and agreed upon criteria for competition.
The conference stated that best practices from the NCAA Sports Science Institute (SSI), National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA), American College Health Association (ACHA), Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local and state health guidelines will be followed.
One of the ADs’ first recommendations was that in light of the four-state geographic footprint of the league, the MWC should split into regional divisions to minimize travel distances and limit the need for overnight stays.
Also of primary concern is uniformity of regulations among the member schools.
“If one college has a super strict policy and we play someone who doesn’t have that at all we’ve just put not only our players, but our whole campus in jeopardy,” Degeorge said. “As a conference we’re trying to agree on things that if they don’t make us identical we will be really similar. That’s not easy because people have a lot of different ideas and they differ on their interpretation on the NCAA’s guidelines. It is confusing.
“The first phase of the NCAA guidelines is no more than 10 people in a group. You don’t open things like your weight room. No group meetings. You try to do everything as much virtually as you can.
“After you get that through that phase, then you go to the next which allows you to be in groups of 50. But keep in mind you have to count the coaches and the trainers and managers, too.”
That’s what the athletic directors are up against, however.
Among some of the other considerations:
Will the conference play non-conference opponents? Some leagues, such as the Ohio Conference, have already ruled that out for the fall.
When will the first competition be? DeGeorge said after that is determined schools can decide when to bring student-athletes back on campus following the NCAA guidelines.
“There is a lot up in the air and we’re trying to get things done as fast as we can,” DeGeorge said. “I think by the end of this week the ADs could have everything ready to go to the college presidents. Then they have to convene a meeting. I hope we’ll be able to determine when to bring our athletes in by the middle of this month. It’s been a challenge, particularly for a first-time AD. This is my first pandemic.”
And he hopes his last.