Last week, the NAIA set parameters for the start of the 2020 college football season, including a later kickoff to the season and shortened schedules.
The new season will include a maximum of nine games, down from the typical 11. Practice cannot begin until Aug. 15, and the schedule can not kick off until Sept. 12.
The change became necessary because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The reductions are proportional to the shortened seasons and are consistent with recent feedback from presidents, athletics directors and commissioners expressing a desire to reduce regular season costs,” the NAIA said in a release.
The decision by the NAIA was understandable according to Reinhardt athletic director Bill Popp.
“We’re actually thankful and pretty at ease with the situation,” Popp said. “It’s not really a loss because it’s better than not playing at all.”
Reinhardt is a member of the Mid-South Conference for football and the Appalachian Athletic Conference for all other sports, and Popp said that he was in constant contact with the leagues' commissioners about the likelihood of playing football and other fall sports such as volleyball, cross country and soccer.
“Reinhardt is very athletically enrolled, and we saw the reflection of how student-athletes might react last spring,” he said.
Popp also said he and others at Reinhardt were worried that canceling athletic seasons could deter students from attending the university.
“Student-athletes typically like the face-to-face and on-campus bonding,” Popp said. “Academically, nothing changed that much. We might’ve even had an improvement.”
Popp said he does not like any possibility of the fall seasons getting canceled. He hinted that the NAIA’s decision was indicative of member schools and sports returning in the fall.
“We had a realization that this was coming down the pike,” Popp said. “This was probably the easiest decision to agree on.”
Popp said Reinhardt, like many other schools, front-loaded its football schedule with non-conference games, and the Eagles will most likely cut those with the later start to the season. Popp said he is currently looking at an eight-game season, with the schedule most likely being filled with teams in the Appalachian Division of the Mid-South Conference, or teams from the other divisions.
Popp said the schedule had not been finalized, but he was hopeful that the school could have everything completed sometime next week.
“I want to stress how important it is to look out for safety,” Popp said. “We want to have action, but while remaining interested in athletics.”