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.