COVID deflates football
MURFREESBORO – The stands will be empty and the field will be void of players this fall here at James G. Garrison Stadium on the campus of Chowan University.
On Thursday, the Board of Directors for the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), in conjunction with its Athletic Directors Association (ADA), voted that NCAA sports competition sponsored by the conference will not occur during the fall of 2020 due to ongoing safety concerns associated with COVID-19.
Chowan University remains a football-only member of the CIAA and was scheduled to open their 2020 season at Wingate on Sept. 5.
The Hawks compete in Conference Carolinas in all other sports except for bowling.
There is a possibility that the CIAA will move its 2020 football season to next spring. If a move to the spring is adopted, revised game and practice schedules will be established along with the process of determining a conference champion. A time frame on this decision has yet to be determined.
“Given the current climate with the COVID-19 pandemic, this announcement by the CIAA is not surprising,” stated Pat Mashuda, Chowan’s Vice President for Athletics. “You do what’s best for everybody. We support the decision of the CIAA Board of Directors and will work with them to create a spring schedule if that is the direction they take.”
Like the CIAA, Chowan will honor the athletic scholarships awarded to its returning players and new recruits.
As for the fall sports season within Conference Carolinas, which includes women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis, and women’s swimming, Mashuda said no decision had yet been reached by league officials.
“Conversations continue among the presidents, athletic directors, and coaches within the member institutions of Conference Carolinas in regards to the fall sports season,” Mashuda noted. “Right now we’re taking a wait-and-see approach as the COVID-19 pandemic remains a moving target”
Mashuda said Chowan’s current plan is to bring students back to campus beginning Aug. 22. That plan includes offering “hybrid instruction” – meaning a mixture of traditional classroom settings and online/virtual education. However, the classroom settings will look different with smaller class sizes in an effort to deter students from gathering in larger numbers inside the same buildings.
“It’s paramount that we protect our students, staff, and the Murfreesboro community,” Mashuda said.
Meanwhile, the decision reached by the CIAA is informed by the reality that several of its member schools are located in states experiencing dramatic increases in new COVID-19 cases, to include North Carolina. This recent rise in cases has led to a pause in phased reopening plans in many of these states, resulting in uncertainty as to whether students will return to campus this fall at several CIAA member institutions.
“This was a difficult decision but remains consistent with our long-standing priority of always acting in the best interest of our student-athletes, coaches, and support staff,” said CIAA Commissioner Jacqie McWilliams in a press release. “While there will be no athletic competition in the fall, we will continue to support opportunities that enhance the experiences of our student-athletes, member institutions, and partners.”
At the recommendation of the CIAA ADA, with approval from the Board of Directors, the conference will explore the possibility of a modified schedule of competition for football and volleyball as well as men’s and women’s cross country during the spring of 2021.
Additionally, CIAA membership has unanimously agreed to honor athletic scholarships for their fall sports student-athletes.
“The main priority of the Board and conference is the safety and well-being of our students and staff,” said Virginia State University President and CIAA Board Chair Makola Abdullah. “Although this decision is not ideal, it does afford all of us an opportunity to continue working through best practices to ensure our communities as a whole are in the best possible position moving forward.”
“The safety, health, and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches and staff are non-negotiable. Decisions of this magnitude are made with those factors as number one priority while looking to address current issues that have an adverse impact on all of us,” said Clyde Doughty, Bowie State VP of Intercollegiate Athletics & Recreation and President of CIAA Athletic Directors Association. “These are unprecedented times and our conference continues to work together to identify the best solutions that address the concerns impacting our ability to participate and exist.”
Decisions concerning winter and spring sports in the CIAA will be discussed as efforts to flatten the curve of new COVID-19 cases progress.