The NJCAA is recommending that a majority of sports compete in the spring semester for the 2020-21 season, a change in course from the association’s initial action plan amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The NJCAA Presidential Advisory Council, along with the NJCAA President and CEO and NJCAA Board Chair have recommended that a majority of NJCAA competition move to the spring semester of 2021,” said NJCAA President and CEO Christopher Parker in a statement. “The organization is finalizing the plans that provide engagement, safety and regional leadership to support student-athletes during the fall and spring semesters.

“Individual NJCAA regions will discuss the recommended changes prior to the NJCAA Board of Regents meeting on Monday, July 13, where an official plan of action will be decided. More information will be provided following Monday’s meeting.” 

Labette Community College Athletic Director Aaron Keal said that he, along with other athletic directors in Region VI, will deliberate over the next few days.

The NJCAA will hold a vote amongst its region directors on Monday on whether or not to adopt any plans that would move sports to the spring semester.

“I don’t believe this will be voted on until Monday,” Keal said. “There will be much discussion on Friday and Monday. It’s just a plan for now.” 

Keal added that he anticipates the plan to potentially be tabled for two weeks as the details are ironed out. 

“It doesn’t look like we’ll make any solid decision until July 27,” Keal said. “This may not be a plan that anybody goes with.” 

The NJCAA’s proposal to move sports to the spring semester comes as the COVID-19 pandemic is seeing various spikes around the country, including in Kansas.

“We must adjust accordingly to support and sustain NJCAA programs. The association as a whole is collectively working to provide the best opportunities to be successful on and off the field for our student-athletes,” Parker said in a statement.

While the NJCAA’s proposal would avoid the feared second wave of the coronavirus, a consequence could be logistical nightmares for schools with limited resources.

At Labette, six programs — volleyball, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, wrestling, baseball and softball — all share resources including one weight room, one gym and limited access to vans for travel among others. Moving all six sports to the spring would compound that issue.

“It could be very, very difficult for us here,” Keal said. “But (the NJCAA) wants to give kids a chance to compete for a national title.” 

Junior colleges across the state and country have already started opening their doors to student-athletes preparing for fall sports, primarily football.

At Independence Community College, the school tested 169 students and staff returning to campus for COVID-19. Two students tested positive, according to the Montgomery County Chronicle, and were isolated.

Labette intends to test every student-athlete returning to campus starting on July 27 and students coming to Parsons from states with travel restrictions or internationally will face a two-week quarantine regardless of their test results, according to Keal.

“We’re testing all the student-athletes for the virus and doing antibody testing,” Keal said. “We’ll see where that takes us upon our arrival,” Keal said. “We’ll have staggered arrivals too, but I don’t know where that goes from here with all this now.”

Labette has four sports that traditionally compete at some point in the fall semester — volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball and wrestling. The NJCAA’s initial action plan for sports in 2020-21 moved wrestling to the spring semester, while basketball’s conference season is mostly or entirely in the spring semester depending on division.

Volleyball would be the sport most drastically affected as it completes its season entirely in the fall semester.

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