After muddling over its plans for the spring sports season, the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) has canceled the remainder of the season due to the spread of COVID-19.
The decision comes after the NCAA elected to cancel its winter national championships for men’s and women’s basketball last Thursday.
Here in Iola, Allen Community College athletics is feeling the trickle-down effect from the coronavirus. All sports are off the spring schedule.
“I think where the NCAA was with it, and where we are, is that sports is a minute thing compared to what we are going through right now,” ACC athletic director and head soccer coach Doug Desmarteau said. “Maybe this thing ends in two months, or two weeks, nobody knows. We would rather be on the side of safety in a time like this.”
Desmarteau admits he had his reservations on the severity of COVID-19 in the virus’s early developments, but no longer shares those beliefs.
“It is unprecedented,” Desmarteau said. “I know I have changed my views from the beginning after being a little relaxed. I’ve been through H1N1, SARS, and all these other things before, but it has never been like this.
“Things change daily, and hourly when you are in a world of students. We just wanted to make a decision, and go with it instead of being wishy-washy.”
The NJCAA has decided to redshirt each athlete competing in the spring, meaning they will not lose a year of eligibility. The NCAA and NAIA are in compliance, stating they will not count this spring season against junior college athletes intending to transfer to four-year schools.
The issue? How will this affect the number of letters of intent available for each program’s disposal. After all, most spring sports have already locked up their recruits for next season. Meaning next season will be a crunch for spots if this year’s sophomores elect to stay next year for another season. Some sophomores might not be able to return if another year puts them over the amount of hours allowed to be taken.
“What we and the NJCAA are trying to figure out is are these sophomores going to be exempt from this year,” Desmarteau said. “If so, baseball goes from having 24 letters of intent, plus every sophomore that was here this season. It’s crazy.”
AS FOR the “student” aspect in the student-athlete phrase, all classes have been moved to online-only for the remainder of the semester. For the students away on spring break, ACC has advised them to stay away. But for the 30 student-athletes that reside on campus, they are welcome to stay, Desmarteau said.
“We would prefer if they can go somewhere, to go. But we aren’t going to just let them go on the street, we are going to take care of them and feed them,” Desmarteau said. “We are going to allow the dorms to be open, and serve food in the cafeteria. We are just going to take precautions on distance, and if someone gets sick.”
If students need extra in-person attention from class instructors, Desmateau highlighted those services will still be available. ACC believes they are prepared well for the all-online switch, with over 75% of faculty already experienced in online instruction.