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'Experts in crisis management,' the CIAA adjusts to pandemic reality
League pushes fall sports to spring scheduling
 
Published Friday, July 10, 2020 11:12 pm
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

PHOTO | CURTIS WILSON
The CIAA pushed its fall sports, including football, to spring, where schools like Johnson C. Smith will play against league rivals only.

Spring football has a new meaning in the CIAA.

League officials cited the expanding COVID-19 pandemic as the reason it pushed fall sports back a spring semester, which means no football, cross country or volleyball until 2021. The decision isn’t unprecedented, though. There was no football championship as late as 1946-47 as the nation – and college enrollment – recovered from World War II.

“Corona[virus] is making the decisions for all of this, right now, so we're following the lead of the science and the data, and we have plans in place for scheduling for this spring for football, should we be able to play,” Clyde Doughty, vice president of athletics at Bowie State and chair of the league’s athletics directors association said Friday during a virtual media conference. “And if that comes to fruition, we will be able to play at least our conference games in the spring, if things get better medically.”

The CIAA, whose footprint spans from South Carolina to Pennsylvania, will continue to monitor the spread of infection during the fall before making a decision, but science will be at the top of any decision. Because the league encompasses 13 schools in five states, health guidelines as well as the scheduling and infrastructure to pull off games safely – especially football – are among the considerations. The league committed to limiting schedules to conference games only after conversations with the NCAA’s chief medical officer, Division II leaders and other stakeholders.

“We’ve been having conversations with Dr. [Brian] Hainline at the NCAA, and other leagues about this as well,” CIAA Commissioner Jacquie McWilliams said. “I do think there may be some guidelines that come out that we would be required or possibly have to follow in order to proceed with our seasons. We’ll know more of that in the next week or so. I think you’ll see either more decisions whether people are going to continue to play or not to play given what those guidelines are, but hopefully we'll have more information to understand how that impacts our decisions moving forward for winter and spring.”

Because Division II leagues like the CIAA don’t produce millions in broadcast or sponsorships, there’ll be pressure to better manage budgets. For smaller colleges that operate on the athletic margins through student fees and ticket sales, there’s more impact from slashed schedules and stadium capacity while honoring scholarships. Doughty believes pushing the fall schedule back will give programs a chance to make adjustments.

“I don’t think it’s putting a strain on the athletic departments,” he said. “It’s given us time to reallocate our funds. The virus COVID-19 impacted all of our revenues from an institutional perspective, so we're trying to manage those funds as efficiently as possible. Thus, we’re looking at all the different options and we’re going to use every possible funding source to support all of our sports programs, not only football.

“We will lose some revenue from tickets and other items but for the most part, we're going to look at being very efficient with the funds we do have so we can provide the experience that the commissioner said to our of our base who enjoy CIAA football and all the other sports.”Said Virginia State President Makola Abdullah, chair of the CIAA board of directors: “The entire thing is very difficult, as we try to navigate this new world of higher education and how do we do the best that we can to provide quality experiences in a world now where proximity is difficult. It's difficult for sports. It's difficult for our faculty to be able to do the kinds of work that they are used to doing. I think is typical across the board in higher education. This is a very challenging decision in that way, but I believe it's the right decision.”

Regardless of how the pandemic reshapes college sports landscape, McWilliams insists the league will meet those challenges.

“I think we’re experts in crisis management, actually, in being able to manage the good and the bad,” she said. “I honestly believe that every decision that we make is a win. It may not be for those who may not like the decisions that we make, but I think we think out very well what opportunities exist through these challenges and I think we always reinvent ourselves to be better and to do better.”

 

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