|McMurry athletics photo
This upcoming season, the first practice date for Division III football and all fall sports will be Aug. 10, or the first day of class, whichever comes earlier.
In previous years, the first date of practice was tied to the date of a program's first game. This year, the date of a team's first game could change between now and this fall, as some conferences are considering the elimination of non-conference games.
With schools across the country changing their dates of fall classes to attempt to lower the risk of spread of the COVID-19 virus, this gives athletic departments and coaches some much-needed direction as to when they can start their preseasons.
Doing the minimum
Some schools may find it difficult to field full schedules in 2020-21. These are the new minimum number of contests programs will need to compete in order to qualify for the postseason this upcoming year.
|M/W XC: 3||M/W BB: 12||Baseball: 17|
|Field hockey: 8||M/W hockey: 12||M/W golf: 4|
|Football: 5||M/W swim: 5||M/W lacrosse: 7|
|M/W SOC: 9||Indoor track: 3||Rowing: 5|
|WVB: 11||Wrestling: 5||Softball: 16|
|M/W tennis: 7|
|M/W track: 4|
Earlier in the offseason, the Division III Administrative Committee approved a reduction in the minimum number of games for sports seasons. This affects a couple of areas, including the number of games needed to qualify for the playoffs and the number of games needed for schools to be able to say they sponsored the sport in a particular year. (This is important because schools need to sponsor a minimum number of sports each season in order to remain in good standing as Division III members.)
“We hope that a reduction in contest minimums will provide flexibility to our member schools as they work to reopen during what is a very uncertain and complex time. We understand this won’t fix everything for everyone, but we believe it is the right move at this time and we will remain flexible moving forward,” said Tori Murden McClure, chair of the committee and Spalding president.
A Division III football team can qualify for the playoffs with just five games in 2020. The maximums have not changed, and a team is still permitted to play its full 10-game schedule.
As for how a team might qualify for the playoffs with just five games, most of that will be left up to conferences. Each of the 27 conferences with automatic bids has the responsibility for determining how that bid will be handed out. It may well be that conference members play a different number of contests from each other, and the conference will need to balance how to break ties under that type of scenario.
Another wrinkle in this is that local or state restrictions may prohibit teams from traveling out of state. Of the 28 conferences which sponsor NCAA Division III football, just six are confined to one state: the Empire 8, Liberty League, Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, Ohio Athletic Conference, Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
The NCAA’s Sport Science Institute put out guidelines on how to resume college sports and return student-athletes and staff to campus. The Core Principles of Resocialization of Collegiate Sport recommends a phased approach, and this move allows greater time for that to be implemented.