The coronavirus pandemic is already having an impact on scheduling for the 2020-21 school year at the NCAA Division II level.
In a press release Tuesday from the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, it was announced the NCAA Division II Presidents Council has adjusted the maximum number of permissible contests played by Division II schools for the upcoming school year.
Among the most notable changes are shortening the football and basketball seasons.
The Presidents Council limited the maximum number of football games to 10 for the 2020 season, while basketball schedules can only have up to 22 games for the 2020-21 season.
Lincoln, as well as all other MIAA football programs, play an 11-game schedule, with each of the 12 conference teams playing each other once. According to the Presidents Council, that means one game will have to be eliminated from the Blue Tigers' schedule.
During the 2019-20 season, the Lincoln men's and women's basketball teams each played 28 regular-season games, the maximum limit unless a team played in a conference challenge event or Division II Tip-Off Classic.
The Presidents Council is limiting teams to 22 games for the 2020-21 basketball season, and games played in a conference challenge event or the Division II Tip-Off Classic are counted in that number.
MIAA teams play a 19-game conference schedule, with home-and-home series against six opponents and a single game against the remaining seven opponents. If the conference schedule does not change, that would leave each team with three non-conference games for the upcoming season.
"I applaud the NCAA for this quick action to help schools address the disruption and budget shortfalls occurring in higher education," MIAA commissioner Mike Racy said. "As state tax revenues continue to decline, and state expenses continue to increase, and higher education appropriations in each state continue to shrink, these NCAA reductions in every Division II sport will assist MIAA athletics departments as they make adjustments to their 2020-21 budgets."
The MIAA's scheduling subcommittee will review the MIAA schedules for the upcoming school year and make modifications to comply with the NCAA requirements. The MIAA CEO Council is scheduling to meet via videoconference June 15, and the conference is hopeful the schedule changes will be approved then.
According to the press release, "the emergency one-year recommendations from the Presidents Council are focused on institutional cost savings, reducing athletics operating costs as a result of COVID-19 compliance, and preserving fair and equitable standards for Division II championships' selection and competition."
"NCAA Division II conferences and institutions have acknowledged through survey feedback on contests reductions that COVID-19 has presented us with financial challenges that we are proactively addressing together," the Presidents Council said in the press release. "In that spirit, and as a result of the governance structure's decision to reduce contest maximums, thus affecting current schedules, we strongly encourage all member institutions and conferences to work cooperatively and collegially when adjusting schedules. Please keep in mind the purpose behind these actions is to assist all institutions with short-term financial concerns so that we may emerge stronger as a membership and division."
The one-year scheduling changes were recommended to the Presidents Council by the NCAA Management Council. In addition to survey feedback from Division II schools, the NCAA Management Council received feedback from several leadership groups, including Division II governance committees and the National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).
"As a student-athlete, it is not easy to accept that I will be playing a shorter season. However, I know that the NCAA and MIAA put student-athletes first and I understand that cutting the maximums will help more institutions to stay open and athletic programs to compete equitably," said Mackenzie O'Neill, a Missouri Western women's soccer player and the MIAA's NCAA Division II national SAAC representative.
In addition to football and basketball, here are the limits on the maximum number of contests for the other Blue Tigers athletic teams for the 2020-21 school year:
Softball: 44 games.
Men's and women's track and field: 14 dates (for the indoor and outdoor seasons combined).
Men's and women's golf: 16 dates.
Cross country: 6 dates.
Women's bowling: 32 dates.
According to the Presidents Council, "the maximum contests requirements will return to the previously legislated and policy numbers for the 2021-22 academic year."