UNI postpones fall sports to spring

COLIN HORNING, Sports Editor

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has left no part of the world untouched, and there has perhaps been no industry affected more than the sports world. Sports fans around the globe saw March Madness cancelled last spring, the NBA and NHL seasons suspended until recently, and the 2020 Olympic games moved back a year, amongst many other tournaments and leagues to cancel their respective competitions.

The news recently for all UNI student-athletes was the last thing they had wanted to hear: on Friday, August 14, the Missouri Valley Conference announced they will be postponing all conference play and championships for fall sports. Among these include volleyball, women’s soccer and cross country. One week prior, the Missouri Valley Football Conference (which operates as a separate body from the rest of the conference) announced that it would be postponing conference play until the spring with the hopes of playing an eight game schedule and a reduced playoff format. Many smaller conferences around collegiate sports had been either postponing or cancelling their fall sports due to the uncertainty of play during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions and the debate over whether or not to allow fans in attendance at games.

University of Northern Iowa Director of Athletics David Harris expressed disappointment in the cancellation of the fall season but cited the health and safety of the student-athletes as the foremost reason behind the league’s decision. “The health and safety of our student-athletes are first and foremost in our decision making and have been from the beginning of this pandemic. That doesn’t take away the heartbreak that we feel with the decision to push the season to the spring. We will shift our focus to the spring and encourage the NCAA to find a model for championships that provide opportunities for student-athletes from all conferences to be represented,” Harris said.

The conference has said that all student-athletes whose seasons were postponed will still be allowed to participate in workouts, strength training and team meetings, as long as they abide by the health and safety guidelines set forth by the NCAA.

The NCAA Board of Governors gave each conference willpower to decide whether playing a season was in their respective interests. Some of the larger or “Power 5” conferences such as the PAC-12 and Big Ten announced that they will be moving their fall sports to the spring as well. Others, however, like the Big 12 and SEC have said that they are moving forward with a fall college football season. This has led many to speculate how the NCAA championships will be conducted if some teams are playing in the fall with others holding spring sessions. Regardless of what happens, the MVC is confident that all fall sports will be able to take place in the spring.