by Philip Dowden
Evangel University president Dr. Carol Taylor and Director of Athletics Dr. Dennis McDonald announced that Evangel would be open for in-person classes, and plans are for fall sports to compete for NAIA and Heart of America Athletic Conference Championships.
June 3, Dr. Taylor announced, “I’m excited to welcome everyone back to campus this fall. As you know, we’re working very hard as a campus to do everything we can to keep our community safe in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. What won’t be different is the heart of our community as we care for each other.”
The start of the fall semester at Evangel has been moved up to August 21 with the semester ending November 24. Moving the start of the Fall semester up a week and canceling fall break will allow to have a full semester that meets all Department of Education requirements for instruction. Concluding the semester before Thanksgiving, students then won’t return to campus until the start of the spring semester on January 13, 2021. This will lessen the amount of travel during the fall semester and protect students, faculty, and staff from increased risk of spread of the virus.
Also, on Thursday, June 3, NAIA President Jim Carr announced approval from the Council of Presidents with three key focus points. Evangel and the Heart of America Athletic Conference continue to discuss how these changes affect student-athletes not only returning to campus but practices and competition.
- Return to Play Threshold: The threshold goal is for half the participating institutions in each sport to receive clearance from local authorities to return to competition before the season can begin. The rationale for this decision is that a significant number of institutions need to participate to offer student-athletes a significant 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.
- Start Dates: Beginning on August 15, student-athletes may practice consistent with any health and safety protocols your institution deems necessary. While practices can begin August 15, only individuals identified with your institution can participate in these practices. No scrimmages, exhibitions, or competitions of any kind that involve individuals not identified with your institution may take place prior to the competition start date listed below.
Competition start dates are as follows:
All sports except football: September 5 (providing 3 weeks of practice prior to competition)
Football: September 12 (providing 4 weeks of practice prior to competition)
- Maximum Contests Allowed: With the delayed start dates, there are fewer weeks to complete the season. As a result, the COP Executive Committee approved a reduction in the maximum number of contests as follows:
Cross Country: 7 meets, down from 8
Football: 9 games, down from 11
Men’s and Women’s Soccer: 14 games, down from 18
Women’s Volleyball: 22 dates, down from 28
The reductions are proportional to the shortened seasons and are consistent with recent feedback from presidents, athletics directors, and commissioners expressing a desire to reduce regular-season costs. Currently, the NAIA intends to host all fall national championship events as currently scheduled.
For Evangel football the Crusaders will now open the season September 12 against Clarke University at 6 p.m. The remaining schedule for football will stay intact at this time. Volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer continue to align their schedules due to the adjusted start date and will be communicated in the coming weeks.
In addition to a COVID-19 Task Force by the Heart of America Athletic Conference, Evangel University has created a COVID-19 Safety Task Force with several working teams, including an Athletics team. The Task Force monitors and follows CDC safety guidelines and those of our Springfield Public Health Department and city as the group develops new processes and protocols to help Evangel student-athletes return to play while taking every measure to minimize health risks for our athletes and guests.