PARK HILLS – Athletic competition for the 2020-21 academic year at Mineral Area College has the green light to proceed as planned – at least for now.
The NJCAA announced its plan of action for the upcoming fall and winter sports seasons on its website Friday, in response to a COVID-19 pandemic that has halted action since March.
The men’s cross country program has a Division III national title to defend, and the newly established men’s and women’s Division I soccer teams are set to commence their inaugural campaigns.
But perhaps the most noticeable change to the sports calendar involves the basketball season, now set to tip off two weeks earlier than usual.
The uncertainty surrounding a possible second wave of COVID-19 later this year prompted the governing body to declare Sept. 14 the first permitted day of basketball practice.
Competition can now begin Oct. 16, and athletic directors are urged to adjust schedules accordingly in attempt to reduce the number of games between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. The Cardinals had 16 games and Lady Cardinals played 13 prior to Christmas last season.
The Rotary Shootout is typically held on the second Saturday in December, featuring a number of high school games in addition to the annual MAC sports Hall of Fame ceremony.
The NJCAA also updated its list of safety protocol recommendations, including temperature checks for athletes, coaches and game personnel prior to each competition, and the elimination of pre-game and post-game handshakes.
Fans are encouraged to wear face masks and practice social distancing while limiting all engagement with student-athletes before and after events.
An exception in the NJCAA bylaws for 2020-21 will allow member colleges to provide or pay for student-athlete COVID-19 testing if they so choose.
Dorms can be opened to fall, winter and spring student-athletes as early as July 18, providing a 14-day window before the official start of fall sports practices on Aug. 1.
New locations are currently being sought for several NJCAA postseason championship events, due to growing travel concerns and local re-opening regulations.
The cross country Cardinals won the first national crown in school history last November in Westfield, Mass., but will likely chase a repeat somewhere else.
The official first day of competition for volleyball, soccer and cross country remains Aug. 20.