MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — The River States Conference, of which the University of Rio Grande is a member, announced Wednesday its intention to resume play this fall according to the guidelines established by the NAIA Council of Presidents (NAIA-COP) and sustained by the RSC Council of Presidents.
“The conference has monitored the COVID-19 situation continually since the cancellation of Winter 2020 championships as well as the suspension of the Spring 2020 regular and postseason,” RSC Commissioner Michael Schell said. “We believe the time is right to return to play this fall. We will continue to monitor the situation and take the necessary steps to adhere to all safety measures required by the NAIA, state and local governments within our five-state region comprising the conference.”
Member schools are working toward bringing students back to campus at this time. Team practices may begin starting August 15. No athletic contests, including scrimmages and exhibitions, will be conducted prior to September 5. Prior to all practices, all coaches and student-athletes will be screened by the university using NAIA guidelines.
Prior to all competition, all support staff, officials, coaches and student-athletes will be screened by a health professional per NAIA guidelines. In addition, for the RSC, this screening will also occur prior to any team traveling.
As a result of the recent decision by the full NAIA Council of Presidents to allow conferences to determine their own testing protocols, the RSC will not require pre-participation COVID-19 PCR testing for all student-athletes. Each member institution may establish its own testing requirements consistent with local and state guidelines and policies.
However, should a student-athlete present with symptoms outlined by the NAIA, Conference and institution policies will be followed. This requires that a health professional clears those athletes to return to play.
By starting competition in the fall season, we can still opt to move some or all of the regular season competitions or postseason championships to winter/spring if necessary. We intend to provide flexibility to our members in postponing and rescheduling contests such that no one is placed in a “play at all cost” situation.
With the NAIA’s recent announcement to move national championships for all fall sports to the spring, our members will utilize non-conference competition during the spring semester, including with conference opponents, if needed, to prepare for these championships.
The allowance or restrictions for fans will be left to the member schools using their state and local guidelines. Social distancing as well as mask requirements are expected. As we move closer to competition, the RSC website will post each school’s decision and any requirements related to spectator participation.
The RSC Administrative Council continues to work toward the necessary policies and procedures for moving forward in what has become an ever-changing situation. We continue to monitor federal, state and local guidelines and policies and remain flexible to make changes as the situation develops. Our goal is to continue to provide a great student-athlete experience while maintaining safety standards.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.