NAIA announces revised dates for fall championships

Nebraska City News-Press

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) announced the new dates for its postponed fall championships on Thursday, Aug. 20. Its National Administrative Committee (NAC) convened to approve the new dates, and in some cases, new locations, for the spring of 2021.

In the last week of July, the NAIA Council of Presidents (COP) voted to postpone 2020 fall national championships to the spring. This move also allowed NAIA conferences and institutions the autonomy to schedule games as they see fit, playing entire schedules in the fall, spring, or a hybrid of both seasons. Football, women's soccer, men's soccer, women's volleyball, and men's and women's cross-country national championships were all affected by this decision.

"We feel good about resetting these dates after taking a good look at our fall championship events, and being able to find dates that fit for our membership and our most of our host venues," said Bill Popp, president of the NAIA National Administrative Council and director of athletics at Reinhardt (Ga.). "This was a tough task and the group that has been working together both from the national office and NAC have really done an exceptional job. My hat is off to them for the hard work."

The NAIA Football National Championship has been rescheduled to occur on a Monday for the first time. The championship will remain at Eddie G. Robinson Stadium at Grambling State University and will take place on Monday, May 10, 2021 at 6:00 p.m. CT.

The NAIA Women's Soccer National Championship has been relocated from Orange Beach, Ala., just seven miles away to Foley, Ala., at the Ralph Schumacher Soccer Complex as the Orange Beach Sportsplex undergoes construction.

The rescheduled national championship will take place from April 27 – May 3, hosted by Foley Sports Tourism. The Orange Beach Convention and Visitor's Bureau was instrumental in finding a suitable replacement as it continued its longstanding partnership with the NAIA during the rescheduling process. Women's soccer will return to Orange Beach once again in the fall of 2021.

The NAIA Men's Soccer National Championship will also make a move and will switch coasts to the east. Due to scheduling conflicts with the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, Calif., the men's national championship is in final discussions with Columbia County, Ga., to host at Blanchard Woods Park May 4 – 10, 2021. The county is expected to approve a memorandum of understanding on the terms of this move by Sept. 1.

Women's Volleyball will be staying put in Sioux City, Iowa for the 13th consecutive year. The Tyson Events Center will again play host as teams will battle it out for a national title from April 27 through May 1.

In both men's and women's cross-country, a new date was established in April as both coaches and student-athletes will navigate the difficulty of having the sports of track & field and cross-country at the same time. The re-scheduled cross-country national championship will take place on April 9, 2021 and will remain in Cedar Rapids at Seminole Valley Park, hosted by Cedar Rapids Tourism.

Impact on Peru State

The Peru State fall athletic teams impacted by the decision includes football, volleyball, women's cross country, and men's cross country.

At this time, the Heart of America Athletic Conference (Heart) is one of the conferences in the NAIA that is moving forward with their fall sports season. Volleyball and cross country teams can begin competition on Saturday, Sept. 5 while football programs can start the following Saturday.

The Heart plans to get as much of its season in providing that there is not a wide spread outbreak of the coronavirus. The conference has developed a plan entitled "Heart Promise" which allows for a safe return to competition and honors the autonomy and the flexibility of each institution in a way that is mutually beneficial to all parties.

Peru State athletic director Wayne Albury commented, "The College is moving forward with its plans for competition and is taking on a rigorous testing protocol for not just the athletic program, but the entire campus." Continuing Albury added, "Our coaches and athletic training staff are constantly reminding their players to maintain social distancing, to wear their masks, and to make smart decisions about their activities outside of the institution."

The Bobcat volleyball team is scheduled to being their competition on Saturday, Sept. 5 in Sioux Center, Iowa where they will face Northwestern (Iowa) and the host Dordt Defenders.

The Peru State harriers will also being their fall schedule on Sept. 5 when they run in the Maple Leaf Invitational hosted by Baker University in Baldwin City, Kan.

The football season will begin on Saturday, Sept. 12 when the 'Cats head to Atchison, Kan., to take on Benedictine at 1 p.m.