The NCAA made the decision Thursday to not only cancel all winter sports postseason play, including the NCAA basketball tournaments, but also all spring sports postseason play because of the spread of COVID-19.
That hasn’t completely stopped some conferences from trying to hold spring sports competition, including the Division II Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference of which Durango’s Fort Lewis College is a member.
After long deliberations Thursday and finally a vote from the RMAC Presidents Council, the decision was made to suspend all spring sports through April 6 effective immediately because of the new coronavirus spreading across the nation and world.
“The decision made by the RMAC Presidents Council affects all spring sports including baseball, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s lacrosse, softball, and men’s and women’s outdoor track and field,” the RMAC said in a news release. “The suspension also limits the activity of fall sport programs engaged in spring competition or travel including football, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball.”
That means FLC men’s and women’s golf, track and field and women’s lacrosse and softball will be shut down until at least April 6. It is possible at that time the RMAC will choose to cancel all spring sports.
“This is an extraordinary period we are in,” RMAC Commissioner Chris Graham said in the news release. “As a membership organization, we are guided by the decisions and actions of our members and always in the best interest of our students and student-athletes.”
Fort Lewis College athletic director Brandon Leimbach was in an emergency conference call Thursday morning. After Thursday afternoon’s vote and news release, he had more questions. He is still unsure if FLC spring sports athletes are allowed to practice.
“As the COVID-19 situation is developing rapidly, we continue to collaborate with leaders from the FLC campus, the RMAC and NCAA as we make decisions that keep the health and safety of our student-athletes and staff our top priority,” Leimbach said in an email to The Durango Herald.
Wednesday, FLC announced students would take classes online only beginning March 25 through April 6 in an effort to minimize the spread of coronavirus on campus once students return from spring break.
According to the RMAC statement, it appears as though the Fort Lewis College football spring practice schedule will be on hold until April 6 after only two practices Tuesday and Wednesday. FLC has five practices scheduled for spring after April 6 as well as a spring game scrimmage scheduled for 11 a.m. April 18. FLC is eager to get to work under new head coach Darrius G. Smith.
“I was only able to get two practices in, and one was an indoor practice,” Smith said. “I’m hopeful to get more practices in. I still have some evaluations I need to get done, but these decisions are over my pay grade. I’ve heard rumors across the country that things might not pop back open for schools and conferences until this summer. I’m hopeful to get some practices in to continue to build a team up here, but it’s out of my control.”
If the entirety of spring practices are canceled, Smith hopes the NCAA allows Division II teams to work together during the summer like Division I programs are allowed to do during certain dates. He does not want to get into August and start from scratch with only weeks to prepare for a season opener at Division I FCS Northern Colorado.
“It would be imperative,” Smith said of potential summer practices. “I don’t know how many new coaches took jobs this year, but the spring is so you can establish a foundation of what you want to do schematically, learn personnel and fill in last-minute needs in recruiting. Without that opportunity, everyone is behind the eight ball if you’re a new coach coming into a new program. So many questions are unanswered, and you never want to put yourself in a situation where you’re trying to force round pegs into square holes.”
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