NEWTON—While the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference announced Wednesday that the conference will play its fall sports season in the fall, the individual schools will still face a lot of challenges getting the seasons going.
On Tuesday, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletic’s Council of Presidents voted to move the fall championships to the spring for all sports but football, but left to individual conferences and schools the decision to play the regular season in the fall.
Decisions on the upcoming football season will be made Friday.
"We’re still trying to find out what that will look like in specific detail," Bethel athletic director Tony Hoops said. "We had anticipated the NAIA would probably make this determination about a week or 10 days ago, so we have some contingency plans in place already. What we are trying to develop with the schedule is how much to play in the fall and when to do championships — do you do KCAC championships in the fall or do you split seasons."
Another question will be if a team that competes in the fall and qualifies for an NAIA championship in the spring would be able to hold some spring competitions to prepare for that post-season play.
"That’s probably going to be done on a sport-by-sport basis," Hoops said. "It will probably depend on how things play out in that given sport. We would also give ourselves the flexibility to play some in the spring for those teams that qualify for post-season. Whether that is in conference or out of conference is still to be determined."
Hoops said some schedule changes may have to be made for non-conference contests based on what other conferences decide. In preparation for the upcoming season, the NAIA reduced the number of playing dates for fall sports, eliminating many non-conference dates.
Hoops also said the NAIA eliminated earlier COVID-19 testing requirements, but Bethel plans have a testing protocol school-wide for both athletes and non-athletes, which brings up the question about fans and students being able to attend athletic contests.
"Right now, the opinion would vary from school to school, depending on what county health regulations were. I’m not sure if we’ll develop a policy in our conference. It will be more along the lines of each specific county."
If fans and students are not allowed to attend, Hoops said the school’s on-line presence will be important. Bethel has expanded web broadcasting in recent years to include football, volleyball, soccer, basketball and softball matches.
KCAC commissioner Dr. Scott Crawford said that the conference has monitored the COVID-19 situation continually since the cancellation of Winter 2020 championships as well as the suspension of the Spring 2020 regular season and postseason.
"We believe the time is right to return to play this fall, albeit in this altered timeframe," Crawford said. "We will continue to take all necessary steps to protect everyone in the game environment and adhere to all safety measures required by state and local governments within the four-state region comprising the conference."
KCAC member schools can begin practice Aug. 15. Competition may begin in all fall sports except football on Sept. 5. Football teams may begin competition Sept. 12.