The Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) announced Thursday the suspension of all 2020 Fall seasons except cross country and golf until the Spring of 2021 due to precautions surrounding COVID-19.
This follows Wednesday's announcement regarding the cancellation of all seven of NCAA Division II's fall 2020 championships.
In a meeting Thursday, the RMAC Presidents' Council postponed conference schedules and championships for fall sports (football, men's soccer, women's soccer and volleyball) to the spring semester except for cross country which shall compete as originally scheduled. Additionally, the Council agreed that men's and women's golf could continue its non-championship segment competition this fall.
South Dakota School of Mines athletics director Joel Lueken said that despite all that has happened in the last couple of days, the NCAA is allowing each institution and conference to be flexible.
In the spring, while there will be no NCAA championships, there can still be a RMAC championship for such sports as football, volleyball and soccer.
"We had two meetings today in the RMAC, and we're going to meet until we get this thing figured out," Lueken said. "Our objective is to make sure our kids have a fantastic student-athletic experience, and are able to compete for championships."
According to the release by the conference, the Council's decision was made based on the recent National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Board of Governors' mandate of the NCAA Resocialization principles, and the Division II Presidents Council decision to cancel fall championships. The RMAC decision allows league members further opportunity to align with the student-athlete safety measures outlined in the NCAA document to prepare for competition.
The release went on to say that the determination on sport status was made based on the NCAA risk rankings of sport. Cross country and golf are considered lower risk than all other fall sports. Further details on the structure and scope of the spring semester practice and competition schedules for postponed sports will be released in the coming weeks.
Practice opportunities will be available in the fall semester for fall sport student-athletes per Division II rules and at the discretion of each RMAC member institution, according to the RMAC, which will continue to monitor local and national developments regarding health and safety, along with association guidance to make any necessary adjustments moving forward.
"COVID-19 related decisions are tough when there is so much out of our control in the situation," Black Hills State University athletics director Jhett Albers said in a release. "We at Black Hills State are going to focus on creating and sustaining a healthy, safe and positive environment to keep enhancing our student athlete experience."
According to the RMAC, member representatives and conference officials "understand the significant impact these decisions have on our student-athletes and stand ready to provide support and guidance in any way possible. Questions related to eligibility, scholarships and academics should be directed to member institutions as always."
Lueken said they are trying to make sure the athletes have the ability to say yes or no if they want to compete, and they have to present them with all of the information. Their scholarships will be honored regardless if they chose to play or not and any COVID-19 related health issues will be taken care by the school.
In football for example, Lueken said that if a student-athlete plays five games, technically the athlete will burn a year of eligibility.
"Can we play four football games in the spring, two home and two away, and in the fifth game you compete for a North-South RMAC football championship?" Lueken said. "It's the same way for volleyball and soccer. We'll break it down in pods and see if we can compete."
Lueken said that they will look to keep the athletes busy and healthy in the fall. In football for instance, what normally is spring ball could essentially be in the fall.
The games would then be in the spring, although the normal early January-February Black Hills weather could cause some problems heading into spring.
Academic internships and co-ops also weigh into the student-athletes decisions, Lueken adds.
"This has created so much more work for our coaches and our athletic administration in planning. We plan one week and two days later we have to rip that plan up and start over," he said. "We're trying to create the best student-athlete experience and give the kids something to compete for. They came here to get a great education,and they also came here to compete at a high level."
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