By Tejay Cleland, Sports Editor
Basketball is on for the MIAA conference, meaning it’s on for Newman University too.
Last week, officials from the MIAA met to discuss how to handle basketball season, considered a winter sport. In the end, they voted to let basketball teams play their new all-conference schedules, which will start in mid-November.
At the start of the school year, the conference decided to suspend all sports competition across the conference until January 1. Recently, it reinstated cross country competition as it is considered a low contact sport.
Although it sounds like good news, Newman Athletic Director Joanna Pryor said there is lots of uncertainty.
“The conference has a lot of questions coming at them right now,” Pryor said.
Being allowed to compete also comes with stipulations, Pryor said. On Oct. 15, the start date for official practice, the NCAA will require that 25% of players from each team be tested for COVID-19 once a week. Once games start, every player and team personnel member, including coaches, trainers, and managers, will need to be tested at least once a week.
The NCAA, however, has recently recommended that teams test three times a week. There will be a meeting of MIAA athletic directors across the conference tomorrow to make a decision on whether to test more often. Many other conferences across the nation have voted against this recommendation and will only test once a week.
Head women’s basketball coach Darin Spence said all the safety stipulations create another issue.
“There is much thought being put into all this and unfortunately there is a cost to all this,” Spence said. “In a time where we are having to cut budgets, the timing of this couldn’t be worse. Will the costs be something we can handle or not? That will really be the big question with it.”
The MIAA will compete in an all-conference schedule this year, unlike in years past. Formerly, Newman scheduled nine games against non-conference opponents. Spence said he believes this puts the team back a step going directly into conference play.
“I don’t ever think it’s a good thing to jump right into conference play without having some non-conference games to find out who your group is. In basketball, it does take some in-game experiences to figure out rotations and who we want to play together and who plays best with whom,” he said. “But, [the whole conference is] on the same page now so we just do it and make the best of it.”
Pryor said although there are many uncertainties, this is a great opportunity for the athletes.
“Could you imagine these athletes just practicing all year and never even having a game?” she said. “I mean, that’s just torture. That’s no fun.”
Pryor said the regulations for fans are up to each individual university. Newman is not yet sure how they will handle letting fans into the gym for games.
“It’s tough because institutions’ facilities are so different,” Pryor said. “We are actually going to set the gym up this week and see what we can do with it.”
Men’s and women’s basketball are set to open their official season with home games against Pittsburg State University on Nov. 18.
PHOTO: Courtesy Photo, Newman Athletics