Schuck's Clipboard

Heart preparing for fall sports to begin ... as of now

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 5, 2020 12:01 am

The Heart of America Athletic Conference is giving it the good old college try.

Only time will tell if that is a prudent move.

Last week, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, of which the Heart is a member, announced it was moving all of its national championships scheduled for this fall to the spring semester in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Three days later, the Heart reaffirmed its stance it intends to have its member schools play this fall instead of flipping seasons. Practices begin August 15 with competition beginning September 5 for all sports except football, which kicks off September 12.

"As of now," Culver-Stockton College athletic director Pat Atwell said.

Because as of now, there remains a window to alter the Heart's course.

Meetings are taking place daily. Conversations among the athletic directors from the league's 14 member schools are ongoing. Schedules have yet to be finalized. And the coronavirus positivity rate in areas or states where teams are located is high.

"As I sit here this morning -- that's how I always kind of frame it -- we are moving forward with fall sports," Atwell said Monday morning. "That's how we're preparing."

It's given coaches a little bit of clarity on how to schedule preseason workouts, set move-in dates and get in the right frame of mind to compete.

Again, as of now.

"Coaches are the ultimate planners. Every minute of everything is planned out," C-SC women's soccer coach Tyler Tomlinson said. "I can go ahead and make a plan. I already know it won't stick and I'm going to have to make changes to it. So as much as I can feel like I'm prepared, I know that I'm not."

That's because schedules are in flux.

The C-SC men's and women's soccer teams are slated to play 14 games with the regular season ending October 30. The C-SC football team will play a 10-game slate, and the women's volleyball team will have a 27-match schedule. The Heart championship events are scheduled to follow in November.

That's where things get tricky.

With the NAIA conducting its championship events in the spring, any Heart teams qualifying for the national tournament will go into the postseason without the rhythm of the season. They potentially will have to find a way to prepare for a title run with no sanctioned games to play.

"We've talked a fair amount about that," said Atwell, who serves on the Heart COVID-19 Task Force and the Heart strategic planning team. "There's room to play in the spring, and I think they'd do some waivers. But who would you play in the spring? You couldn't play your typical D-IIs because they're playing. They'll be in their league-only schedule.

"So we're trying to ponder that. Some people think a split schedule would be good idea, have us play half in the fall and half in the spring. We haven't got there yet, but it's been thrown around. There's a lot being thrown around."

More ideas will be tossed around as the Heart navigates these turbulent times.

As of now, the schools are getting ready to welcome student-athletes back to campus with a target date to see them on the fields and courts.

"From a league standpoint, this gives us the most flexibility," Atwell said. "If we make a decision now to move everything, then the hand's been played. While we might get there, I think they want to take the optimist's view and think, ‘OK, let's see if we can manage this and try to play.'"

As of now, there's hope the league can.