Football on field stock

The Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Council of Presidents has decided to postpone all fall competitions until Jan. 1, 2021 following recommendation from the NCAA Division III Administrative Committee.

The NCAA committee said competitions were a potential health and safety risk for student athletes and coaches because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

This recommendation came Aug. 20 along with legislative action by the committee requiring institutions to inform student athletes of the risks involved, as well as healthcare costs, before making an informed decision.

The committee also encouraged institutions to consider the need for insurance coverage for illness related to athletics, similar to the current coverage for athletic injuries. Originally, if student-athletes or coaches contracted COVID-19 through conference events the insurance cost would not fall on the institution.

Following the statement and legislative action, each individual institution in the HCAC had the opportunity to meet with their legal counsel and come to a decision. Despite high-risk sports like football, men’s and women’s soccer, and volleyball being postponed, the council voted that all in-person competition would be halted.

Jay Jones, Commissioner of the HCAC, said the group was confident in the safety procedures put in place in the remaining sports competing this fall leading up to the guidance from the NCAA Division III Administrative Committee.

“We had devised plans that we felt comfortable with,” Jones said. “But then the statement [from the NCAA] comes out and it put us legally in a position in which we didn’t feel comfortable.”

Women’s golf and women’s tennis will shift to the spring much like the previous decisions with volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer, and football, Franklin College Athletic Director Andrew Hendricks said.

“These decisions are a direct result of the pandemic and the recommendation from the NCAA that fall competition be postponed,” Hendricks said.

Shifting cross-country, however, will be a little more complicated because the majority of cross-country runners also participate in track, Hendricks said.

Many Franklin College student athletes said they feel a mix of emotions after finding out their season is halted a week before fall semester begins.

“Coach Lundy sat all the girls down at our home golf course and broke the news to us,” said sophomore golfer Mara Wilson. “It was tough, for sure, but the team is amazing, and we will persevere.”

Henry Davidson, a sophomore runner on the track and cross-country teams, was looking forward to the cross-country season after track was cut short in the spring.

“It is upsetting because we all worked very hard over the summer, but we are a resilient team and I am thankful that we are able to practice together this semester,” Davidson said.

Student-athletes will still be permitted to practice, but without conference competition.

“I am a little bummed out we cannot have a normal season," said sophomore volleyball player Morgan Curtis. "I have accepted the fact that things just are not normal anymore."

The previous decision by the HCAC moved fall, high-contact sports to the spring. Winter sports, like basketball and swimming and diving, will not be able to compete until January 2021.

“We remain very optimistic about the spring and resolute that we will find our way back to the experience our student athletes have come to cherish at Franklin College,” Hendricks said.

The HCAC plans on phasing conferences throughout the spring semester to prevent too much cross-over between sports and for student-athletes who are involved in more than one sport.

“Our hearts go out to the students. It is our passion as well and it hurts,” Jones said. “We are doing our best to keep everyone safe.”

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