The new normal for college athletic departments such as South Dakota School of Mines, Black Hills State University and Chadron State College is upon us.
For the 2020-21 academic year only, the minimum number of contests required in Division II for sport sponsorship and championships selection, as well as the maximum number of contests and dates of competition allowed, will be smaller than in years past as a result of financial impacts from COVID-19.
The Division II Presidents Council in a teleconference Tuesday voted for reductions in all three areas strictly for the 2020-21 academic year.
The division’s highest governing body voted to reduce the minimum number of contests needed for sport sponsorship and championships selection by 33%, with rowing being the lone exception to the change for championships selection.
According to the NCAA, the council voted for a one-year reduction to the maximum number of contests and dates of competition, as well. These reductions varied by sport, based on results from a survey administered to presidents and chancellors, directors of athletics and conference commissioners.
"Yesterday (Tuesday) I didn't have anything on my calendar, but when this hit, I became immediately busy," Mines athletics director Joel Lueken told the Journal Wednesday.
For the upcoming football season, the Hardrockers, Yellow Jackets and Eagles will have to eliminate at least one game each as all three have scheduled 11 contests for the 2020 season.
More than likely that one game will come from the two-game non-conference portions of the season, with nine games scheduled for the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference slate.
Mines will open the season at home Sept. 5 against Missouri S&T, and travel the next week to former RMAC foe Dixie State in St. George, Utah. Dixie State left the conference as it moves up to the Division I FCS ranks.
Lueken said to go from 11 to 10 football games, he is working with Dixie State to eliminate that game so they can have a home game.
"I think I found a replacement for us and Dixie State, which is kind of a ripple affect," he said. "There is a mutual termination schedule in week two, so we think that Western New Mexico will go in our place to play Dixie State, that way Dixie doesn't lose a home game."
BHSU's non-conference schedule includes a road contest at Dickinson State (N.D.) Sept. 3, followed by a home contest against William & Jewell the following Saturday (Sept. 12).
Both of Chadron State's non-conference games are lengthy road contests — Sept. 12 at Missouri S&T and at Western Oregon University Nov. 7.
All three reductions stemmed from financial struggles Division II institutions are facing due to the pandemic.
The athletic directors' work in this process affects both saving the road teams from the travel expenses to the home teams not losing game revenues.
"That is what our decision was based on. We wanted to have a Division II home game, and we've got a home-and-home series scheduled with Missouri S&T — they are coming to our place this year and in 2021 we're going down to Rolla (Missouri). It just made more sense for us to do it that way," he said.
"It's not an easy trip for us to go down to St. George, Utah, from Rapid City. Charlie (Flohr, new Mines head football coach) said he would prefer to have the home game, so that is what we're going to do."
The Presidents Council made the final decision on all three issues after receiving recommendations from the Division II Management Council, which considered feedback from several leadership groups, Division II governance committees and two surveys of the division’s leadership.
In April, the Division II Conference Commissioners Association conducted a survey in which nearly 95% of the division’s athletics directors participated. From the survey, the Division II CCA put forward the initial proposal to reduce minimums and maximums. The proposal was brought to the Division II Championships Committee, Membership Committee, Legislation Committee and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for their discussion and recommendations.
The Presidents Council also considered the results of a Division II membership survey, specific to reducing maximums, that 435 division leaders responded to earlier this week. The survey was taken by 258 athletics directors, 154 presidents and chancellors and 23 conference commissioners. Roughly 85% of the survey respondents said they supported some form of reduction to the maximum permissible contests for the 2020-21 academic year.
Locally, the schedule reduction affects all sports, including volleyball, men's soccer, women's soccer, cross country and golf in the fall, basketball in the winter and track and field and golf in the spring.
Volleyball has been reduced to 20 matches (already 18 in conference) and men's and women's soccer to 14 each, while both men's and women's basketball is down to 22 games, not including exempt or exhibitions against Division I programs.
Track and field is down to 14 indoor and outdoor meets and softball to 44 games.
"I credit the athletic directors in Division II for being proactive, rather than reactive," Lueken said. "We've been telling our presidents all across the country in the Division II level that we're going to do a lot of things to help alleviate costs. This reduction in schedules, which the coaches don't necessarily enjoy — I get that as a former coach — definitely beats eliminating a sport or putting people on furlough."
Lueken said that one of the other measures that they will also do is eliminate face-to-face meetings with athletic ad-men, presidents and coaches. They'll be done virtually via Zoom.
"That will will be able to say us time and money because we had to travel quite a bit to facilitate those," he said.
This situation is so fluid, Lueken adds, that you don't know what will happen in the future.
"We could get back to campus on week one and then all of the sudden we have an outbreak and we have to slam the breaks on a dime and reevaluate," he said. "We're going about it as normal as we can, even though we are not on campus. But we're planning on having that Sept. 5 home opener against Missouri S&T until we're not going to have it."
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!