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NAIA decision gives SOU fall teams title hopes

The NAIA’s decision to hold championships for traditional fall sports in the spring because of the coronavirus won’t significantly alter plans in the works for Southern Oregon University and the Cascade Collegiate Conference.

The conference, of which SOU is a member, earlier elected to move cross country, soccer and volleyball to the winter or spring.

The NAIA ruled only on championships. Schools and conferences can conduct their regular seasons whenever they see fit.

The NAIA’s announcement Tuesday following a meeting of its Council of Presidents was not without relevance, however.

“The great news for our Cascade Conference student-athletes is that they will still have an opportunity to compete in championships next year,” said Southern Oregon athletic director Matt Sayre.

The momentum for spring championships “was heading that way, I guess you could say,” he said. “It seemed like the most prudent thing for the NAIA to do at this point: allow schools to be able to go in the fall, if they can, if they want to, and still have an opportunity for playoffs in the spring, which also allows for programs that have moved to the spring to compete.”

The Cascade Conference will wait until the NAIA sets its championship dates, then work back from those dates when creating schedules for its fall teams.

The implication is that the conference will move the three fall sports to the spring, rather than winter, although no official announcement has come.

More than 50 NAIA schools have moved fall sports to the spring.

Playing a fall or winter season, then waiting for the end of spring to enter the playoffs “does seem weird,” said Sayre. “You would think most would say, let’s delay our start as well. That’s what I anticipate.”

SOU is one of three Cascade Conference schools with football teams. The College of Idaho and Eastern Oregon are the others. They compete as associate members in the Frontier Conference and have decided to delay play until the spring, potentially breaking away temporarily from the Frontier.

The other five Frontier teams are in Montana and have elected to push forward with a fall season.

The NAIA Council of Presidents is expected to meet soon about football and provide directives by Friday.

The council is seeking more input from football members before choosing a course of action, said Sayre.

As of last week, about half the NAIA schools still planned fall competition for cross country, soccer and volleyball, but 71 percent of football schools were determined to play in the fall, said Sayre.

“I’m not sure why,” he said. “Maybe because there’s just a lower number of schools that play football. I anticipate that probably has changed since last week. I think they (presidents council) want to hear one more time from football playing schools what their intentions are, then they’ll make a decision on Friday about that.”

Of playing football this fall, Sayre added, “You might think that’s politically difficult to justify.”

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or ttrower@rosebudmedia.com.

SOU athletic director Matt Sayre