Small College Sports

Midwest Conference suspends all sports to 2021, Northern Sun pushes back start of its fall sports

American Rivers Conference moving forward with fall sports

Cornell Quarterback Isaak Hahn (17) rushes the ball during a football game between Coe College and Cornell College at Cl
Cornell Quarterback Isaak Hahn (17) rushes the ball during a football game between Coe College and Cornell College at Clark Field in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, Sep. 15, 2019. (David Harmantas/Freelance)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Three conferences that include many of Iowa’s small colleges have made decisions about their fall sports.

The Division II Northern Sun Conference announced Monday it is pushing back the first date of practices for football, men’s and women’s cross country, volleyball and soccer to early September. The league includes Upper Iowa.

The Division III Midwest Conference, which includes Cornell and Grinnell, announced Monday it is suspending all league competition for fall and winter sports through Dec. 31.

The American Rivers Conference, another NCAA III league that includes Coe and Luther, announced Tuesday it remains “committed ... to proceeding with conference competition, using a reduced schedule in football and single round-robin schedules in other sports.” The ARC — formerly the Iowa Conference — sponsors fall sports in men’s and women’s cross country, football, women’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s tennis and volleyball.

“We did everything we could over the past couple of months to develop schedules, event management protocols and testing policies so that we could compete this fall,” Midwest Conference Executive Director Heather Benning said in a news release. “However, due to the recent sustained surge of cases across the country, and a lack of guaranteed access to timely and reliable testing with the frequency recommended by the NCAA, the conference does not feel it is in a position to sponsor intercollegiate athletic competition at this time.”

The Midwest Conference noted it is committed to allowing some form of practice and skill development in small groups up to the end of the year. It said its member schools could have “limited non-conference competition” at the discretion of each school.

The Northern Sun, meanwhile, is delaying practice for football and men’s and women’s cross county to Sept. 2 and volleyball and soccer to Sept. 8. The first allowed competitions for football and cross country will be Sept. 26 and for volleyball and soccer Oct. 2.

“This was a challenging decision for our membership to make,” Northern Sun Commissioner Erin Lind said in a release. “For the last several months, our membership has been working tirelessly to prepare for the fall sports season, including developing the resumption of athletic principles, revamping schedules and creating competition disruption plans. At this time, we remain optimistic that we can safely conduct a fall sports season and moving the start date of competition will give us the best opportunity to give our student-athletes the experience they deserve.”

The ARC — which also includes Wartburg, Central, Simpson, Buena Vista, Loras and Dubuque in Iowa and Nebraska Wesleyan — also announced schedules will be released “as soon as the revised drafts pass through the conference’s governance groups.

“The Presidents Council and conference leadership will continue to monitor public health in the region and will adjust the schedules accordingly,” the release noted.

Non-conference competition in the ARC will be permitted “at the discretion of the conference’s nine institutions.”

The Northern Sun noted pushing back sports would allow its schools to “focus solely on reopening safely.”

“Athletics is a vital aspect of all 16 of our campus communities, and we owe it to our student-athletes to exhaust all options that will result in an opportunity for them to compete in their sport,” Lind said. “We are optimistic that remedies to manage the virus and minimize spread will improve over time which would provide a more consistent season and positive experience for our student-athletes. Although we are not able to guarantee this given the uncertain nature of the virus, we are committed to exploring all options.”

The National Junior College Athletic Association recently announced it is pushing back fall sports to the spring and delaying winter sports. That affects Kirkwood Community College.

The St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC), which includes Iowa Wesleyan, announced Tuesday men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball would be postponed to the spring 2021. Men’s and women’s golf and cross country teams will compete in the fall.

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No decision, however, has been made by the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) regarding the football season. Iowa Wesleyan is a football member in that conference.

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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