Tomlinson Stadium

Central Washington University’s Tomlinson Stadium empty and locked.

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It’s only a matter of time before the NCAA Division II council decides to delay the 2020 fall championships and formulate a tentative plan. Nearly half of the Division II conferences (11) have already canceled or pushed back the start date in the fall and expect more to follow suit in the next few weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic — especially with players reporting less than a month away.

The Great Northwest Conference canceled fall athletics last Friday through Nov. 30 and were ample of reasons. Not only is it the danger of practices and competition, but the travel, overnight trips, and the financial costs of COVID-19 testing throughout the season. The GNAC is made up of five states and Canada (Simon Fraser) that has a closed border.

“Just a lot of things that I think ended up coming to the conclusion that I don’t think we’ll be able to do this with the best interest of student-athletes in mind and their health and safety, as well as our coaches,” Central Washington University athletic director Dennis Francois said.

There’s been conversations on having fall sports in the spring, but it’s a waiting game to see what avenue the NCAA takes with fall athletics.

“We’re still looking for some guidance from the NCAA on some of that,” Francois said on the practice schedule if fall athletics are moved to spring. “Fall sports, traditionally, their non-championship segment is in the spring when they can have spring football, spring practices and competition with soccer and volleyball. And they’re always having spring for workouts. Now it will be essentially from what we see from the NCAA and what’s going to happen, we’ll have to declare what our window of a non-championship segment is in the fall.”

But there will be a slew of challenges in terms of eligibility (15-quarter rule), facility use with fall and spring sports entwined, and scheduling. Francois hopes there will be relief in the 15-quarter rule, especially if there are student-athletes who planned on graduating after the completion of the fall quarter.

“From an academic perspective, from a financial perspective, a lot of different things there,” he said.

And say if fall athletics do occur in the spring with seasons played through the end of May to early June, athletes quickly turn around and report in August for the normal fall season.

“You’re having two seasons in one calendar year,” Francois said. “From a health safety and injury and recovery perspective, that’s tough. I don’t care what sport it is.”

Athletic budgets will be stiffer for the 2020-21 school year — and most likely beyond — as universities are taking financial blows. And CWU football losing its season opener at the University of Montana surely doesn’t help the athletic budget as $88,500 was headed to its pocket.

The Big Sky Conference hasn’t announced a delay to its season, but if so, Francois would still welcome the idea.

“We did say if it does go to a spring season (for the Big Sky and GNAC) and we got a date that’s conducive to a game, we’d definitely love to play that,” Francois said.

CWU phased its summer voluntary workouts for all sports and have made no changes since football, volleyball, soccer and cross country (first phase) commenced July 6. Men’s and women’s basketball and indoor track and field (second phase) started last Monday and men’s and women’s rugby, baseball and softball (third phase) are slated for next Monday.

There are strict protocols upon entering facilities with the temperature and symptom checks, social distancing and wearing facial coverings.

“We felt pretty good about our first couple of weeks in the fall sports (first phase) in terms of following protocol and processes that we put into place,” Francois said. “So, we really didn’t make too many tweaks or adjustments during this two-week period.”

On Wednesday during a videoconference meeting, the Division II administrative committee decided to not charge student-athletes the use of the 2020-21 season if a team competes 50% of less of the sport‘s maximum contests because their season is canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Luke Olson:; on Twitter: @lukeolsonb


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