In a move that’s both shocking – from the sports side – and not, given recent world events, the National Junior College Athletics Association voted Monday to postpone fall sports until spring 2021, meaning Kilgore College won’t be playing football, basketball or fall softball this calendar year.
The unprecedented move, made because of cautionary measures to avoid athletes and perhaps crowds, from contacting the COVID-19 virus, happened via a the vote of the NJCAA’s Board of Regents Monday afternoon in Charlotte, N.C., a 4:30 p.m. Central time meeting; institutions and the media were notified moments after.
Former Tyler Junior College athletic director Tim Drain is the representative from Region XIV, which includes the East Texas colleges in the RXIV Conference and the Southwest Junior College Football Conference. Drain told East Texas media outlets Monday afternoon that he voted in favor of the rescheduling to spring, and that among those he sought for counsel in the matter, they were all in favor of the move.
The decision means that not only will the Kilgore College Rangers football team – and all junior college football programs – will have to wait until at least March to start their season, it also means no basketball, men’s or women’s, until January, and no Rangerette halftime performances at either.
KC athletic director Jimmy Rieves was traveling and couldn’t be reached for comment. Prior to the vote, Rieves said every day the situation changes. “We have to adjust,” Rieves said. “We will adjust accordingly at KC, and look forward to competing when we are allowed to do so.”
The Rangerettes normally have a Christmas spectacular and a large spring show called Rangerette Revels. It is unclear if this will force changes to any dates on the Rangerettes’ schedule, or what performances they’ll be scheduling, if any, during the fall.
The News Herald will reach out to Rangerettes Director Dana Blair and to KC coaches in the coming days to learn more of their plan of action after this announcement.
Following the vote, the NJCAA outlined its plan in a virtual presentation late Monday afternoon on Webinar. The News Herald was invited and watched the presentation.
In it, the NJCAA provided its plan for how sports will be conducted this year, as best it can on July 15. The meeting was presided over by NJCAA President Dr. Christopher Parker.
“It’s not a perfect world, and this is not a perfect situation. But this is the closest we can get right now,” Parker said. “…We have to take into account all the different perspectives that are going on, and how we can do that together.
Parker encouraged college officials watching the presentation. “Enroll your student athletes this fall,” he said. “Keep them on track for graduation, and don’t wait and enroll them in the spring.”
Only cross country and the half marathon, as well as tennis, will be conducted this fall, in August and in November.
Football will be permitted 60 consecutive calendar days to practice within Aug. 15 to November 15. They can have a maximum of three scrimmage dates. Practice will begin March 1, with competition beginning March 25, an eight-game season. The national championship game will be played June 3, and any additional bowl games will be reviewed.
In football, KC is coached by Willie Gooden and competes in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference, and normally plays a nine-game regular season, eight of them in conference. In this plan, KC will likely play only their conference opponents in spring.
Men’s and women’s basketball, which normally begins in late October, early December, is also becoming just a spring sport this year. Basketball programs will also be permitted 60 practices and scrimmages between the dates of Sept. 15 and Dec. 15.
They can have five scrimmage dates, a maximum of two in the spring. Practice for the season will begin Jan. 11, 2021, and the season by Jan. 22, a maximum of 22 games. All regular season, region and other championships will be completed by April 10, and the national championship tournaments to be complete by April 19.
Fall softball will be reduced to 60 consecutive calendar days for practice between Sept. 5 and Nov. 15, with seven scrimmages. The spring season – the main one for college softball – will begin Jan. 22, with practices to start Jan. 10. There will be a maximum of 30 dates, and all region competition must be complete by May 19.
Some sports normally played in spring weren’t altered much at all, such as golf, although more social distancing will be required. Some sports, such as baseball and softball, also fall under that category.
There was caution presented in the meeting that dates may change, but they will be finalized for sure by the end of the month, NJCAA Director of Championships and Sports Rod Lovett said.
The association did cancel spring sports earlier this year, and softball was the only sport affected at KC – Kilgore College was able to finish both men’s and women’s basketball seasons, and doesn’t have other spring sports, like tennis or volleyball, or golf.
KC did start its spring softball season, hoping to make the Region XIV Conference tournament for a second straight year, but the season was canceled really before the conference schedule even got started. Also, coach Leslie Messina ended up resigning due to family reasons in the weeks after the cancelation, and had been the only coach in KC softball history.
Since then, KC assistant coach Trisha Robertson has been named the interim softball coach.
It was noted at the end of the meeting that all athletic directors need to notify the NJCAA’s intentions regarding fall sports by July 27.
Eligibility questions will arise and come into focus soon, according to Brian Beck, the NJCAA’s vice president for eligibility and compliance. “There’s lots of moving parts, still very much a work in progress,” Beck said.