Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Future for Conferences, Part Deux

MAY 12, 2020 | written by STEVE ULRICH
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1.  The Future for Conferences, Part Deux

2018 NCAA Division III Softball Championship bracket announced ...

Welcome to part two of "The Future of Conferences."

Yesterday, we looked at membership, reopening of campuses, travel and schedules. Today, we'll look at the health and safety issues of returning to campus, returning to practice and returning to play.

2.  Returning to Campus

That dorm-room style

It's hard not to see the announcements coming from our nation's institutions of higher learning:
  • "plans to resume 'normal operations' in the fall"
  • "allow maximum flexibility to either return to campus or continue distance learning in the fall"
  • "working toward a safe and secure opening of our campus for the fall semester"
  • "plans to start fall semester in-person"
  • "expects a decision on fall plans by

But what will it really take to bring students back to campus for residential living and learning?

The residential experience in college provides lasting memories - most good, some, eh, not as good? Students may want to return to the dorms, but do their parents want them to go back? Can you assure them that their child will be safe in a situation where cleanliness is seldom next to godliness? What about classrooms and labs? Will colleges provide workers to wipe down door handles, desks, tables or chairs? How about going to the dining hall? Will it all be takeout?

>> Between The Lines: Try to recall what social distancing meant when you were in school. Picture a weekend night staying six feet away from your friends.

>> Classes. Do all students return at once? We know how important the freshman experience is for retention. Do freshmen return first, while others come back later? What happens to academic schedules id everyone is not back at the same time? If all students can come back at the same time, what happens to academic schedules? Is this the end for the large "101" seminar classes? How many students can safely be in a classroom?

>> Of Note: And when class ends ... remember crossing the quad as the clock struck the top of the hour? Right ... rush hour.

3. Returning to Practice

Football - Cornell University Athletics

So we've made it this far. Students are back on campus and those participating in fall sports are clamoring for the opportunity to return to the sport they love. But should they?

>> Cleanliness. Start with uniforms and practice gear. Everything must be maintained by the student, due to the risk placed on equipment professionals. What about athletic training? Taping ankles, stretching out, stim and heat. No social distancing there. Should "essential personnel" be cleaning locker rooms before and after each practice? Do outdoor athletic spaces suddenly need a bona fide cleaning schedule instead of sunshine or a good rain?

>> Contact: How do players feel about the contact involved in football, soccer or field hockey? The post-point huddle in volleyball? How long does the virus remain on uniforms or on the ball? What does that mean for tennis or volleyball, among others?

>> Coaches. Coaches. Of course they want to return to being educators ... but at what cost? Many have young families at home. How high is the risk of exposure?

>> Be Smart: And have you ever been inside a football locker room?

4.  Returning to Play
2018 NCAA Division III Women's Tennis Championships selections ...

Practice opportunities have been exhausted ... it's time to play games. Or is it?

Will institutions be willing to send athletic teams on buses or planes to compete against other institutions? Will finances force schools to compress game-day roster sizes to put two teams on the same bus? Or does that violate social distancing policies? If your scheduled opponent pursues different regulations than you as it pertains to the virus, will you cancel the game? Will you only play them at home, requiring them to follow your guidelines?

>> Reality Check: Will conference members agree to a common set of policies regarding the virus? What if they do not? If they agree, will non-league games go by the wayside?

>> Game-day personnel. Think of the chain gang in football, the ball runners in field hockey or soccer, the athletic trainers and the grounds crew.

>> Spectators. Are you prepared to play a season without fans? Are you prepared to tell your students' parents that they are not permitted to see their child play? Are you prepared to keep them away when they come to campus?

>> Officials. As you know, some of our friends in stripes fall into the more vulnerable categories when it comes to COVID-19. Will they still work? Will they demand higher wages? Will they demand some insurance coverage, as they are independent contractors?

>> Be Smart: Our national officials shortage is about to become much, much worse.



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    5.  Comings and Goings
    6. 1 Sleeping Dog Thing

    Enjoy your Tuesday.

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