LA GRANDE — The current top concern of many NAIA athletic departments is the viability of a 2020 fall season, and the majority would support holding fall sports championships early in 2021.

That is according to a survey of 250 athletic directors from across the nation, which the NAIA released Wednesday.

The most overwhelming answer on the survey saw 64% of the athletic directors say they would support holding fall championships in early 2021 if the fall sports season could not get under until late fall. Only 13% said they would not support the idea, and 23% were unsure.

Nearly half (49%) of the respondents answered “Fall 2020 season” to the survey question of “What is your institution’s leading concern regarding athletics right now?” Another 26% marked health and safety as their top concern. “Other” concerns made up 12% of the response, and 8% pointed to athletics as the concern if the fall school schedule is just online.

Almost half of the responding ADs also indicated they want to see a fall season and championship schedule regardless of the coronavirus. Forty-six percent answered that way to the question of “Is there anything the NAIA can do to help ease COVID-19 related concerns?” The question saw 43% point to a simplification of eligibility as a measure the NAIA could take to help speed up enrollment.

The coronavirus seems to be having some impact on recruitment, but a limited one. More than half (51%) said recruitment goals should be met, and 17% said they should be exceeded. Only 16% said it’s unlikely the goals of recruitment would be met, and 17% were uncertain.

An overwhelming majority (60%) said that they do not anticipate COVID-19 impacting the sports they are able to sponsor provided the fall 2020 season takes place. Just 23% said it would impact them.

On a similar scale, 55% said a shortened or delayed season overlapping another season would not impact their ability to facilitate sports in the winter or spring, while 33% said it would.

On the question of how short a season the athletic directors would find “helpful and amenable,” 38% said eight weeks was the shortest they would take. An additional 28% said 10 weeks, 21% said six weeks, and 13% said they did not want to see the season shortened.

Half of the ADs said individual schools and conferences should have the autonomy to set competition timing. Thirty-one percent supported establishing a start date to reduce the possibility of regions who start earlier gaining a competitive advantage, and 17% said the season should not begin until all regions can be open to begin practice and competition at the same time.

East Region Sports Editor

Ronald's primary beats are Eastern Oregon University, La Grande High School and the other eight high schools of Union and Wallowa counties. As an avid sports fan, he is primarily reading about or watching sports when he isn't covering a game.

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