Nearly every Northwest Nazarene athletics team will see a shortened schedule next season after the NCAA Division II Presidents Council voted Tuesday to lower the maximum number of regular season contests allowed across all sports during the 2020-21 academic school year.
The move was made in response to financial impact on schools during the COVID-19 pandemic and is intended to cut down on non-conference travel.
If the new limits — which are intended to last for only one year — had been in place for this past school year, nine of Northwest Nazarene’s 13 teams would have had to schedule less games. Only men’s and women’s cross country and men’s and women’s track and field would have been under the limit. Those sports could also see a reduction, as the minimum number of contests required for school sponsorship next year were also cut by 33 percent.
The Great Northwest Athletic Conference, which Northwest Nazarene is a member of, will begin discussing how to navigate the new limits this week. Of the sports that Northwest Nazarene will need to shorten its schedule, baseball’s maximum number of contests will be 40, softball will be 44, men’s and women’s basketball will be 22, men’s and women’s soccer will be 14, volleyball will be 20, while men’s and women’s golf will be 16 competition dates.
One thing which may help make the transition for fall sports easier, is the California Collegiate Athletic Association’s decision last week to continue its suspension of athletic activities through the fall season. GNAC schools often schedule non-conference matchups with teams from the CCAA, due to regional convenience.
Concordia University’s closing, which was announced before the pandemic shut down the sports world, also takes some conference matches off the board.
As part of the decision, men’s and women’s basketball teams will not be able to exempt contests as part of a conference challenge event or a Tip-Off Classic like they have in past years. However, the council voted to not change how scrimmages and exhibition games against non-NCAA Division II teams are counted.
In men’s basketball, for example, that means Northwest Nazarene could count one of its Mayors’ Cup matchups against the College of Idaho as an exhibition game and it would not be charged against the new limit of 22 games. Assuming the Nighthawks’ counted their second game against the Yotes as an official contest, Northwest Nazarene could schedule two more non-conference games to go with its 18-game conference schedule.
At this time, there has been no discussion of cutting any sports at Northwest Nazarene, something a few smaller NCAA Division I schools have already done in the wake of the virus.