Fall sports, spring forward: Pandemic pushes all sports season to 2021

by Santino Torres / Staff Reporter

Roosevelt’s Kara Sleeper blocks Robert Morris’ Kaila Beckwith’s spike at the net. Sleeper and Beckwith are now teammates as a result of the integration between the two schools. Photo by Robert Morris University Athletics Archives

With the integration of Roosevelt University and Robert Morris University now complete, the athletics program offers a new variety of sports available for student athletes.

“We have football in Chicago and football in Peoria. In addition, we have baseball in Peoria. Other Chicago programs include men’s volleyball, men’s hockey and women’s hockey,” said John Jaramillo, director of athletics at Roosevelt. “We also have men’s and women’s bowling, and we also have performing arts, eSports and spirit squads in cheer and dance.”

Jaramillo said the new programs give Roosevelt athletics a really robust portfolio which can provide more opportunities for athletics to be represented in a variety of ways.

However, the Roosevelt community will have to wait for fall sports to begin. On July 28, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Council of Presidents voted to postpone the national championships for fall sports back to spring 2021.

“The middle of the summer is when we started to have national meetings and more conference conversations about it,” Jaramillo said. “It was really just a lot of ‘hey, we’re preparing for fall, but there’s a strong likelihood it’s not going to happen.’”

The Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) and its 15 league presidents made the decision on Oct. 6 to announce a single round-robin, 14-game format for the men’s and women’s basketball seasons. According to Roosevelt men’s basketball head coach Joe Griffin, this means that the Roosevelt men’s basketball season will seek an early December start date, with conference play slated to begin Jan. 2.

“They created a uniformed, equal conference schedule for the league, but then they left it up to each individual school to schedule their non-conference games as they saw fit, depending on how the virus is impacting each university within their respective local areas,” Griffin said. “I think they made the best decision they could in an unprecedented time.”

NAIA schools are allowed to play a maximum of 30 games in a full regular season schedule. With 14 CCAC conference matchups, Roosevelt men’s basketball could play up to as many as 16 additional non-conference matchups at their discretion. While Griffin indicated a return to the court could come with games in December, there aren’t any plans to accommodate such a schedule as large as 30 games.

“We’re aiming for about 20 games, give or take a few,” Griffin said. “Currently, we’re scheduled to tip off in early December. We’ll play a great schedule in December, and into conference play in January and February.”

In some instances, student athletes participating in sports made the choice to opt out of their respective seasons, with no penalty assessment whatsoever. 

“This year, if an athlete competes in 50% or less of their season and does not compete in postseason competition, they are not charged a season of competition,” said Brenda White, Director of Legislative Services for the NAIA. 

“Our student athletes are able to opt out at any time if they do not wish to compete. This is not unlike any other year if a student athlete wished to preserve their eligibility,” she said. “In past seasons, if an athlete chose not to compete, they were not charged a season of competition.”

Jaramillo said that the current priority is the safety of the student athletes amidst an ongoing pandemic. “I’m concerned more that they’re getting the best and safest experience possible as part of their college experience,” Jaramillo said.

Current safety protocols would not allow for fans to be in attendance at Roosevelt home games. In the event these protocols remain intact at the beginning of the season, Jaramillo named livestream broadcasting as a solution to keep students in tune with Roosevelt athletics.

“We’re hoping that the public health situation does improve,” Jaramillo said. “We want to give them an opportunity to experience the games. We look at broadcasting them, and working on plans to ensure that as many of our athletic events as possible are live streamed.”

Categories: Sports

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