BILLINGS — Another college sports domino fell as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic when the National Junior College Athletic Association announced Monday it will suspend most fall sports competition until 2021.
The decision affects all close-contact athletic events that begin during the fall semester — football, volleyball, men's and women's basketball, and men’s and women’s soccer. Those seasons will instead commence in January.
The NJCAA, which includes Region XIII members Dawson Community College in Glendive and Miles Community College in Miles City, said the decision was based on recommendations from its Presidential Advisory Council and Board of Regents.
The announcement was made via press release.
“Our greatest focus is and always has been providing the best opportunities for our student-athletes,” Dr. Christopher Parker, the NJCAA’s President and CEO, said in a statement. “Through a unified effort from our Presidential Advisory Council, the Board of Regents, and leadership staff, our most recent plan of action provides a path that keeps our student-athletes competing at the highest level with proper safety measures in place.
“As we move forward as an association, we will continue to provide opportunities for our student-athletes, coaches, and all those involved with the NJCAA to be safe and successful.”
Cross country championships for all three NJCAA divisions and half marathon championships will still be held in the fall, as will Division III women's tennis, the release stated.
Dawson CC and Miles CC, who compete in the Mon-Dak Athletic Conference, each offers men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball among their programs. DCC also fields men’s and women’s cross country teams in the fall.
According to a press release from DCC, the volleyball season will now run from Jan. 22 to March 20. The basketball season, according to DCC, will start on Jan. 29 and finish on March 27.
Dawson athletic director and men’s basketball coach Joe Peterson said the decision was made in the best interest of the athletes and the programs themselves.
“At first I didn’t think necessarily it needed to be done at this point, but the more I thought about it, it makes sense. It gives us more time so we can have a season,” Peterson said. “I think that’s what everybody wants. We want to have our athletic season. They don’t want us to start something and then have to stop it.
“You don’t want the interruptions, you don’t want the cancellations and so on. It’d be much better to start it later and be able to finish.”
Dawson CC and Miles CC both offer rodeo, but those programs are sanctioned by the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association and remain unaffected by the NJCAA’s announcement.
The NJCAA still plans to allow for some practices and scrimmages to take place during the fall semester, the release said.
Spring sports are unaffected as of now, aside from minor scheduling adjustments, according to the NJCAA release.
Miles CC athletic director Jerry Olson said his department, and the athletes, will remain adaptable.
“You’ve just got to adjust,” Olson said. “The most important thing is keeping our student-athletes safe and our campus safe, so we’ll adjust and go from there. No matter when we play, we’re just looking forward to starting.
“It’s just a crazy time. Again, it’s safety.”
The NJCAA’s announcement came on the heels of a number of similar decisions being made at different levels of college athletics.
At the NCAA Division I level, the Ivy League and Patriot League recently announced they will not play fall sports at all in 2020 due to COVID-19. Meanwhile, the Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences have decided to conduct conference-only events during the fall semester.
Both Peterson and Olson said administrators from the Mon-Dak Athletic Conference will begin discussions next week to start the process of scheduling for 2021.
“My guess is we’re going to play a lot of conference games, and have maybe just a handful of nonconference games,” Peterson said.