Another college sports domino fell Monday evening.
The National Junior College Athletic Association officially announced it will move all fall sports, with the exception of cross country and half marathon championships, to the spring semester. Sports moving to the spring include football, men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball. Furthermore, all winter sports, including men’s and women’s basketball, will begin in January and finish in April.
“Our greatest focus is and always has been providing the best opportunities for our student-athletes,” NJCAA President & CEO Dr. Christopher Parker said in a news release. “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.”
Fifty-four NJCAA schools sponsor football and 14 of those are based in Mississippi as part of the Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges.
After the NJCAA announcement, the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges released a statement that painted a more wait-and-see approach than JUCO’s governing body indicated.
“The Region 23 representative to the NJCAA Board of Regents, upon the recommendation of the MACC presidents, voted to abstain on the final vote regarding moving most sports to the spring,” the MACC official Twitter account wrote. “While we are concerned about the health and safety of our student-athletes, personnel and fans, we believe they are best served by waiting for other conferences and organizations to make a final decision regarding fall sports.”
When contacted for an interview, an East Mississippi Community College Athletics Spokesperson referred The Dispatch to the statement made by the MACC.
The MACC statement looms large, because should it abide by the NJCAA ruling and postpone fall sports, several Mississippi football coaches think the entire concept of a spring season is impossible.
“In my opinion, this decision essentially scratches the season,” a MACJC head coach said, who spoke with The Dispatch only on the condition of anonymity. “Any kind of spring football competition at our level will not work. The (NJCAA) should have known that before they made the decision.”
Glenn Davis, head football coach at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, said 25 of his players are on track to graduate in December and would not be available in the spring. He opines most, if not all, sophomores part of the two-year JUCO program will elect to skip the season and maintain three years of athletic eligibility for a four-year college. That would leave him with a roster full of freshmen players.
In Davis’ opinion, no four-year college coach is going to want a potential recruit to end up playing 20-plus games in a single calendar year with only a two-month recovery period after their spring season.
“The numbers are going to be upside down,” he said. “I just don’t see us being able to play in the spring losing that many kids.
“I don’t know what the sophomores will do. I think a lot of college coaches will talk to them, just like a lot of agents will try to talk to athletes at four-year schools out of playing their senior year, four year schools coaches will try and talk these players out of playing so they can (have three years of eligibility left).”
The MACJC has normally been a hot-bed of recruiting talent, with 56 players in the class of 2020 rated as 3-stars or better (according to 247Sports) eventually signing with Division I colleges. In light of the announcement, recruiting gets murky at best.
Several JUCO coaches believe this decision will hurt their athletes’ prospects of playing at a four-year college. There may be no opportunity for a freshman who hardly played his first year to prove worthy of a Division I scholarship, or for an already-committed athlete to receive an improved offer from a bigger school after a breakout sophomore season.
“It’s going to hurt every one of them,” a MACJC coach said. “Both freshmen and sophomores. They’re being hurt by a governing body that’s supposed to help them.”
Despite the announcement from the NJCAA, no changes have been made to the college sports recruiting calendar. The early signing period for Division I football is scheduled for mid-December, while National Signing Day remains in its usual spot in the first week of February.
One MACJC coach opined the NJCAA may attempt to allow schools to host several fall practices and scrimmages to get recruiting eyes on players. This coach thinks that effort will be in vain, though.
“I think they may attempt to make some accommodations,” he said. “I think it will fall flat on its face. I don’t think this decision was thought through. I’m extremely disappointed.”
Two conferences affiliated with the NCAA, the Ivy League and Patriot League, have also made the decision to postpone their fall sports to the spring semester.
Earlier this summer, an MACJC announced an eight-game schedule, one less than its typical nine-game regular season, slated to begin Sept. 10. It is unclear how many games would be played under the proposed spring switch.
“The bottom line is all of us coaches want to be safe for our kids and coaches,” Davis said. “We want to play as many games as we possibly can but if there’s not a way to do it safe, then it’s not safe.”