In a move to evade the worst of the coronavirus, the National Junior College Athletic Association has moved all fall contact sports into the winter and spring seasons.
The decision, which came Monday, affects 524 schools, including Salt Lake City Community College, Snow College in Ephraim and Utah State University-Eastern in Price.
Football and men’s and women’s soccer is now scheduled to begin competition March 25 and April 2, respectively, and last into June. Women’s volleyball can begin Jan. 29 and go into April.
Men’s and women’s basketball, which typically begins preseason play in early November, will not be able to compete until Jan. 11. Meanwhile, spring sports like softball are expected to see only minor schedule changes.
Non-contact sports such as cross country, tennis and rodeo, however, are expected be held as scheduled.
Kevin Dustin, the director of intercollegiate athletics and recreation at SLCC, said change in schedules will take some adjustment. SLCC offers volleyball and men’s and women’s soccer in the fall and men’s and women’s basketball in the winter.
"While we are very disappointed that our athletes will not be able to compete until spring, we support the decision of the NJCAA," Dustin said in a press statement. "The national office worked very hard to accommodate varying needs across the country, keeping the health and welfare of our athletes, coaches, and fans the main priority. We will work very hard to get our athletes into school, put them in the best academic situation possible, and prepare them for spring. This obviously means our spring season will be very busy, but we will work tirelessly to give our athletes the best experience possible."
Some serious logistical gymnastics will be needed to coordinate game and practice schedules for teams that share facilities, like the volleyball and basketball teams or some football and soccer teams. Still, that rat’s nest may be easier to unravel than the mess community college programs will face if the NCAA does not similarly rearrange its schedule.
Snow College women’s volleyball coach Jeff Reynolds led the Badgers to the No. 4 seed in the NJCAA Division I national championships last year, when they were upset in the first round. He said he doesn’t mind waiting a few extra months to find out if this is the squad that can win a national title. He does, however, mind not knowing who will be on his team. Six players are scheduled to graduate in December. If the NCAA doesn’t change course, Reynolds could see a third of his 18-player team jump ship to preserve an extra season of eligibility and get in additional training with a four-year program.
“That hurts a volleyball team, you know?” the fifth-year coach said.
Rob Nielsen, Snow College’s athletic director, said he believes the NCAA will also push back its schedules as long as it can get its Power 5 football conferences to go along.
In the meantime, Nielsen said he’s heard plenty of concern about whether the change of schedule and other precautions are really necessary.
“It’s just a safety concern,” he said, noting that while the players are young and therefore possibly less affected by the virus, that’s not necessarily the case with their support staff. “Whether you believe in the coronavirus or don’t, we have to go with safety for our coaches and personnel.”