NCAC suspends athletics until 2021

Thursday, July 23, 2020 ~ Updated 10:18 PM

Following several months of planning for the safe return of athletics, DePauw and its North Coast Athletic Conference partners have agreed to suspend competition through December 31, 2020.

"My heart aches for our student-athletes, coaches and staff," said Stevie Baker-Watson, DePauw Associate Vice President for Campus Wellness and Theodore Katula Director of Athletics.

"For our 600-plus student-athletes, competition is a key component of their DePauw experience, but their safety and well-being is our top priority. After our students left campus in March, our coaches stayed engaged with them and were instrumental in guiding them through a very challenging time. I'm proud of the work they've all done and will continue to do through the remainder of 2020. TeamDePauw is already moving forward and planning for 2021."

Recognizing that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to present evolving challenges to our campuses and communities, the North Coast Athletic Conference Presidents' Council has, after extended consideration of the new NCAA guidance, and with tremendous regret, made the decision on Wednesday.

"An athletics experience at all NCAC institutions is valuable to fulfilling our educational and developmental missions, and we recognize that this new decision is deeply disappointing to our student-athletes, coaches, and really, to every single one of us," said Keri Alexander Luchowski, NCAC Executive Director. "We worked hard for months to create safe ways for students to compete this fall, knowing how much this means to our students and to our campuses, and that work was the foundation of the announcement we made on July 9th regarding conference competition. However, the health and safety of our campuses and communities must be our highest priority. Sadly, the continued increase in the pandemic in many areas means that we cannot safely proceed with the conference competition we had planned for."

The NCAC will continue to explore all options for a safe return to intercollegiate competition this spring. At the same time, the Conference is committed to providing an engaging and meaningful experience for student-athletes, which will include practice, skill development, strength & conditioning, leadership and professional development opportunities. We will also call on our campus and conference Student-Athlete Advisory Committees and our coaches to develop non-conventional ways for our student-athletes to engage in competitive opportunities this fall.

Frequently asked questions on NCAC athletic suspension

How was this decision made?

This decision was not made quickly nor without considerable effort to avoid this outcome. Since the abrupt cessation of athletics last spring, a conference-wide COVID steering committee, as well as working groups made up of NCAC academic leaders, administrators, faculty representatives, health care professionals, legal counsel and coaches have been planning for our return to play. Conference presidents and governance groups have also met regularly to review and direct the work being done.

Additionally, we have consulted with public health experts and utilized the guidance of national health organizations and national sport governing bodies such as the CDC, the World Health Organization, the American Enterprise Institute, the White House, the American College Health Association, the National Athletic Training Association’s Intercollegiate Council for Sports Medicine and the NCAA, in particular the Association’s Core Principles for Resocialization of College Sports. This work resulted in what we considered truly collaborative strategies, best practices and risk mitigation guidelines, which included the develo p.m.ent of a conference testing protocol for the upcoming academic year.

We all wanted to find a way to safely resume competition within the conference and against other schools, if at all possible. Yet, even with all of our plans, we cannot completely control the environment around us. Current data regarding the pandemic suggests that now is not a good time to compete among one another. As a result the NCAC Presidents’ Council determined that we must suspend competition for the remainder of 2020. We remain committed to providing an engaging and meaningful experience for student-athletes this fall and look forward to a return to competition when we feel the environment is more conducive.

What is the NCAA’s Core Principles for Resocialization of Collegiate Sports?

The idea of sport resocialization is predicated on a scenario of reduced or flattened infection rates. You will find full details here. The NCAA is continuing to monitor all information around COVID-19. Please continue to check the website for updates.

What sports does this decision cover?

The sports covered are men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis and women’s volleyball; Men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s swimming & diving, men’s and women’s indoor track & field.

What will it be like to participate on a team this fall semester?

Individual return-to-play protocols will be in place at each member institution to allow for an athletic experience without conventional competition within the parameters of federal, state, institutional, conference and NCAA guidance. In the meantime, we plan for teams to be able to practice and gather this fall under the supervision of their coaches, as long as they comply with all safety standards in place across their respective campuses.

The conference continues to plan ways to create positive interactions for our student-athletes, coaches and staffs with programming, leadership and professional develo p.m.ent opportunities and fun features about members of our NCAC family.

Though the season will look different from any other, we will partner with our campus and conference student-athlete advisory committees and our coaches to explore ways for our student-athletes to engage in their passion.

Will this decision affect spring sports in their nontraditional season?

Decisions around nontraditional practices remain institutional, however, teams in the nontraditional season will not compete in the fall semester.

Will winter teams be able to participate in practices in the fall?

There will be opportunities for winter sports teams to gather and practice, according to their usual practice schedules as defined by current NCAA legislation. However, teams will not compete in the fall semester.

When will decisions be made about winter and spring sports competition?

The NCAC statement specifically applies to any competition during the fall semester. Decisions about winter and/or spring sport competitions will be made at a later date and probably well into the fall semester.

Any competition would not occur until January 1 and will likely be prefaced by a period of resocialization and acclimatization. We will monitor public health guidance and continue our work with local, state and federal health authorities, as well as the NCAA and other national medical and sports organizations.

Will there be an opportunity for fall sports to have a competitive season in the spring?

The NCAC remains committed as a conference and as individual institutions to building an academic and athletic experience for our student-athletes that is as safe and robust as possible.

Even though we continue to diligently work with the NCAA and our partner conferences in the region and across the country to find ways to conduct competition in the spring semester, it is important to keep in mind current realities as well, including but not limited to the following:

1. Current NCAA legislation does not permit fall sports to compete in the spring. The NCAC is working very hard to make this opportunity possible this coming year.

2. If current public health conditions continue or worsen throughout the upcoming months, the opportunities for competition will remain as they are for this fall.

3. If public health conditions improve to permit more robust competition in the spring semester, it will be important to remember athletics will continue to look different as various resources such as staffing, court/field space, availability of lighting, and weather, will create significant challenges as we try to maximize opportunities for sports over the course of one semester.

Will practicing affect my NCAA eligibility?

No. For Division III student-athletes, participation in workouts, meetings or practices in their usual season during the fall semester will not trigger the use of a season of participation.

Additionally, the NCAA recently issued a blanket waiver that states that Division III student-athletes will not be charged with participation for the 2020-21 season if their team can complete only 50 percent or less of the sport’s maximum contests/dates of competition due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The NCAA also issued a blanket statement stating that a student-athlete will receive a two-semester extension of eligibility (toward their 10-semester total) if they are unable to participate due to COVID-19 or if their team completes 50 percent or less of that sport’s maximum contests/dates of competition.