BEMIDJI -- Wednesday’s news that athletes will be unable to compete for NCAA Division II fall championships in 2020 understandably left those within the Bemidji State athletic department disappointed. The Division II Presidents Council canceled fall championships due to the coronavirus pandemic, joining its colleagues in Division III who did so earlier Wednesday.
“We’re disappointed that the student-athletes will not have an opportunity to compete for NCAA championships in the fall,” BSU athletic director Tracy Dill said Thursday. “But I fully understand and also respect the NCAA making the decision in this manner for the interest of public health for the students and staff and everyone involved.”
Dill and the university’s coaches held a meeting Thursday morning regarding the cancelation.
“They all want to know ways that we can move forward,” Dill said. “That’s kind of the thrust with athletics is you don’t want to always look in the rearview mirror. You want to try to always look ahead. So that’s what we’re trying to do, and focus and see what positives we can get going here.”
Dill and other Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference athletic directors also met Thursday to discuss how to proceed with fall sports. No decision was made as to the status of a potential fall season. More meetings with school presidents and athletic administrators are scheduled for next week.
The NCAA left the door open for schools and conferences to conduct regular seasons in fall sports despite national championships being called off.
There is no timetable for when a decision could be made, Dill said, though the NSIC will need to act soon.
“We don’t want to rush, but we need to make it pretty quick,” he said. “But we need to make sure we’re accurate and we’re working with the best data that we have available right now.”
The conference announced last week that it was delaying the start of its fall season. The move pushed the start date for competition in football, cross country and golf to Sept. 26, while soccer and volleyball can begin play Oct. 2.
For a fall season to happen, schools and leagues will need to follow return-to-sport requirements established by the NCAA Board of Governors.
The rule that may prove to be the most troublesome requires COVID-19 testing of athletes. For high-contact risk sports like football, soccer and volleyball, test results must be received within 72 hours of competition.
Concerns have arisen as to how feasible those testing requirements are for schools, both financially and logistically.
“It is a concern, no doubt about it,” Dill said. “Is it something that we can do? We have different guidance we need to follow, as well. … I think if you look back at the championships (and) why those were canceled, I think they realized it was going to be difficult to do from an expense standpoint, as well, from the NCAA’s perspective.”
When asked how optimistic he is that a regular season for fall sports will take place, Dill said “there’s still a lot that has to be worked out for that to happen right now.”
No decision has yet been made regarding the status of Division I fall sports, nor winter sports at any level. Bemidji State is Division II for all sports except for men’s and women’s hockey, which compete in Division I.