MSU President's Column for Traill County Tribune

June 13, 2020 

NAIA announces guidelines for fall sports

We’ve been eagerly awaiting guidance from the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) regarding the fall sports season. You may know that Mayville State University Athletics operates as a member of this association, as well as the North Star Athletic Association (NSAA).

The NAIA had originally set July 1 as the date they would announce plans for the fall, but knowing that institutions and conferences were awaiting direction, they have come out with their rulings earlier. Assisted by input from presidents, athletic directors, conference commissioners, and athletic trainers, they have established guidelines for return to play. The NAIA Council of Presidents (COP) Executive Committee has approved a number of recommendations that have been released by the national office.

A threshold system will be used as a guideline for determining return to play. The threshold goal is for about half of the participating institutions in each sport to receive clearance from local authorities to return to competition before the season can begin. For example, NAIA football has 95 participating institutions. When half of these programs gain clearance from authorities to play, the NAIA football season will be authorized to begin.

The rationale for this decision is that a significant number of institutions need to participate to offer student-athletes a competitive and championship-caliber experience. Additionally, the fewer the number of participating programs, the higher the likelihood for scheduling challenges leading to increased travel costs and missed class time. The NSAA has given this clearance for teams in the conference.

Based on input from NAIA presidents, athletic directors, commissioners, athletic trainers, and health care professionals, the COP Executive Committee approved the recommendation of practice and competition start dates for each sport. The practice start date for fall sports will be Saturday, Aug. 15. We had previously planned to start having our Mayville State athletes back on campus and practicing beginning on Aug. 2, but we will now follow the NAIA ruling.

Conditioning activities, as long as they are not practices, are not restricted and can take place at any time, keeping in mind institutional guidelines. Mayville State’s Wellness Center and other training facilities will open June 15, following very carefully considered practices regarding cleaning and sanitation. The safety of our students and Wellness Center patrons is of utmost importance.

Beginning on Aug. 15, student-athletes may practice consistent with any health and safety protocols that Mayville State has deemed necessary. While practices can begin Aug. 15, only individuals identified with Mayville State can participate in the practices. No scrimmages, exhibitions, or competitions of any kind that involve individuals not identified with Mayville State may take place prior to the competition start date.

Competition start date for volleyball is Sept. 5, providing three weeks of practice prior to competition. The competition start date for football is Sept. 12, providing four weeks of practice prior to competition. These start dates apply to all sports that schedule practices or competitions in the fall, regardless of when the regular season is played. At Mayville State, this would include softball and baseball.

The rationale behind the selection of the start dates is to provide an adequate acclimatization, conditioning, and practice period prior to competition for each sport, while minimizing the need for student-athletes to return to campus early. Establishing start dates also creates a more level playing field for all institutions that will compete this fall.

With the delayed start dates, there are fewer weeks in which to complete the season. As a result, the COP Executive Committee approved a reduction in the maximum number of contests. Football may play nine games, down from 11. Volleyball may play 22 dates, down from 28. The reductions are proportional to the shortened seasons and are consistent with recent feedback from presidents, athletic directors, and commissioners expressing a desire to reduce regular season costs.

The NAIA intends to host all fall national championship events as currently scheduled. We know that things can change quickly because of the pandemic, but the NAIA is optimistic that the championships will be hosted as planned.

The health and safety of student-athletes is imperative. The NAIA national office and COP Executive Committee are examining various options for health and safety protocols, including testing and screening, and will be sharing decisions about this as they are made. At this time, there are no planned changes for winter sports. This situation will continue to be evaluated.

We very much look forward to the return of student-athletes to the Mayville State campus. We will be closely monitoring the situation and the safety of our students will be our top concern as we make our way back to normalcy. After this time of uncertainty and isolation, I know our fans will be cheering louder than ever for the Comets this fall! See the game schedules at