The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Council of Presidents announced Friday that it will postpone the national football championship until spring 2021.
However, the Heart of America Athletic Conference doubled down on its intention to play sports this fall.
This NAIA’s decision came after officials voted earlier in the week to postpone all fall sports championships until spring 2021.
“The decision regarding the football championship required additional attention since the sport often operates outside of the regular conference structure,” said Dr. Arvid Johnson, NAIA COP Chair, in a statement. “The extra time allotted was to ensure that the COP representatives had adequate opportunity to gain feedback from their conference colleagues.”
The NAIA will still allow schools, such as Benedictine College, to compete in the fall and winter if they choose. That is exactly what Heart commissioner Lori Thomas said her schools will do beginning with practices Aug. 15.
“While the landscape of the COVID-19 situation remains very fluid, we will continue to adjust our sails and move forward with optimism for the upcoming fall season,” Thomas said in a press release. “Our task force and the COP believe that it is in the best interest of our 14 members to continue the opening of competition this fall as planned.”
The Heart said it will monitor the COVID-19 pandemic closely, continuing to meet weekly in the fall. The conference will release the Heart Promise, a document set to address the best practices for a health and safety competitive environment, prior to the start of fall practices.
Heart schools can compete in soccer, volleyball and cross country beginning Sept. 5, with football opening competition Sept. 12. Benedictine football is set to open the season that date against Peru State.
Benedictine is scheduled to compete in cross country, volleyball and men’s and women’s soccer Sept. 5.
The NAIA noted that the decision will make the football championship more inclusive for all member institutions. It also provides flexibility for leagues to to plan their season to be completed in any manner before postseasons are held.
“Moving national championships to the spring does not impact all of our competing programs and there is no guarantee that the landscape of the COVID-19 situation will be any different at that time than it is now,” Thomas said. “We are choosing to focus on what is best for the overwhelming majority of our member institutions and student-athletes.”
Thomas said that if a team is forced to quarantine due to positive cases, any games postponed will be able to be made up in the spring instead of risking canceling contests on a shortened spring timeline.
The NAIA is the second level to make the decision with the NHCAA doing so earlier in July.
The NCAA met last week but didn’t make any decisions regarding the status of fall seasons and championships. At the Division I level, every Power 5 school outside of the Big 12 has announced delayed starts and a mostly conference-only schedule. The SEC moved to a 10-game conference-only schedule Thursday, and the Big 12 is meeting Monday to formulate a season plan.
In Division II, six of the 16 football conferences have announced plans to play in the spring with the MIAA pushing the start back to the last week of September.