Small College Sports

Kirkwood AD sees 'silver lining' as NJCAA moves most fall sports to the spring

Kirkwood basketball programs also affected, as start of winter sports seasons pushed back to January

Kirkwood's Taylor Carey (16) and Anna Gorsich (11) block a shot by DMACC's Amber Dilsaver (10) in an NJCAA volleyball ma
Kirkwood’s Taylor Carey (16) and Anna Gorsich (11) block a shot by DMACC’s Amber Dilsaver (10) in an NJCAA volleyball match at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — You always have kind of wondered why Kirkwood Community College, with its huge enrollment, has never decided to make football a varsity sport.

Athletics director Doug Wagemester has got to be thrilled it never has, in this case.

The National Junior College Athletic Association announced its calendar for the 2020-21 season Monday afternoon, and it includes pushing almost all sanctioned fall sports to the spring because of the coronavirus pandemic. That includes football, which is offered at Ellsworth Community College, Iowa Central and Iowa Western but not Kirkwood.

Kirkwood has six sports: baseball, softball, men’s golf, volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball.

“I feel sorry for schools like Iowa Central,” Wagemester said. “(Too many spring sports) is what you are hearing is the biggest concern. How are we going to manage all this stuff in the spring?”

The NJCAA will conduct only cross country, half-marathon and Division III tennis championships in the fall. Other normal fall sports such as football, volleyball and soccer are being pushed back to spring, added to other traditional spring sports like baseball, softball and track and field.

Kirkwood does have a very good volleyball program that is affected with Monday’s announcement. Very good men’s and women’s basketball programs also are being affected, as the NJCAA is moving all of its winter sports seasons to January through April.

“What I’m finding is you can build an argument for any direction you want to go,” Wagemester said. “At least we have a chance to prepare this way. Yeah, we shrink the season a little bit, but it seems reasonable to me at this time. I’m sure the kids are discouraged, but when they get a chance to process this, they’ll realize they’re still going to have a chance at a season and a championship. Hopefully they can get geared up for that.

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“Haven’t had a chance to talk to all of our coaches, yet, so I don’t know how everyone feels there. But it’s like looking for the silver lining. Everybody is looking for a silver lining, and I think there’s some in this proposal.”

Coaches will have opportunities to work with athletes before their seasons, which Wagemester felt was important in order to keep athletes engaged. He said scrimmages also will be allowed, with those decisions coming institutionally.

Kirkwood’s campus currently is closed, but the school has announced it intends on conducting in-person, online and hybrid classes in the fall.

“Our greatest focus is and always has been providing the best opportunities for our student-athletes,” said Dr. Christopher Parker, NJCAA President & CEO. “Through a unified effort from our Presidential Advisory Council, the Board of Regents and leadership staff, our most recent plan of action provides a path that keeps our student-athletes competing at the highest level with proper safety measures in place. As we move forward as an association, we will continue to provide opportunities for our student-athletes, coaches, and all those involved with the NJCAA to be safe and successful.”

“They put this proposal to us last week to kind of gear ourselves (for) it, voice our concerns, things like that,” Wagemester said. “I understand it.”

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

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