National Junior College Athletic Association board of regents approved recommendations on Monday (July 13th) to move the opening of the November 2020-21 basketball season to January 2021.
The impact will be felt by Connors State men's and women's basketball squads, along with all the other in-state junior colleges (Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference), won't begin their season, traditionally a November start, until Jan. 22 — a week earlier than what Bill Muse, CSC Athletic Director and men's basketball coach at Connors, thought was coming when word broke last weekend of the impending changes.
What he doesn't understand was the early jump at a decision to alter a sport that still is four months from its usual opening game. Not only that but they're still allowed as many as three opponent scrimmages over the course of 60 consecutive calendar days for fall practice.
"I thought the whole idea was not playing until January," Muse said. "I don't think it really makes sense to have scrimmages and not games with fans. The number of fans you draw wouldn't impact JUCO athletics like it would major colleges, yet we're the first ones to jump out and make these kinds of sweeping changes."
Basketball will be reduced from 30 regular season games to 22 in the spring and a maximum of two scrimmages within five for the school term.
Connors currently has 16 guaranteed games (OCAC play) with the opener scheduled against Western Oklahoma State on Jan. 22 at Melvin Self Field House in Warner.
Muse said he is seeking to add additional games to reach the maxiimue of 22 which they are allowed to play this season. "That may be difficult because everybody is in the same situation," said Muse.
Baseball will get 60 practice days in the fall and 15 scrimmages against outside competition before spring practice opens Jan. 10 with the first day of regular season permitted on Jan. 22 with a maximum of 56 games. Softball gets 60 fall practices and seven scrimmages before the first spring practice on Jan. 10 and a maximum of 30 regular season games beginning Jan. 22.
"I know spring sports got hammered not being able to have seasons last year," Muse said. "But they're just as able to spread COVID as we are and they're given 10 more scrimmages to do it. If we're doing all this to prevent the spread, why aren't we just shutting down?"
Dr. Christopher Parker, president and CEO of the NJCAA, said "That's coaches wanting the best of both worlds," he said. "Bottom line was we had schools nationwide who are dropping sports left and right in the fall and making the point they weren't going to play basketball at all in the fall, so we arranged the schedule to give them as much of a complete season as possible in the spring."
Those scrimmages, Parker said, would be open to fans in accordance "with the respective state and municipal guidelines."
Jamie Fisher, Connors' women's basketball coach, said he was grateful that a decision wasn't delayed, putting everyone in limbo.
"This semester will be a lot different and present some challenges, but we as a program will do our best to tackle these challenges and move forward in a positive manner to prepare our team for our season," he said.
Connors State has two busses used for transportation. Four teams will be in need of those over four months, in addition to other campus groups.
"It will put a burden on everybody transportation wise," Muse said.
Perry Keith, whose baseball program will have five less fall scrimmages but otherwise won't be impacted in the spring, said that all would be worked out.
"We've had conflicts with different groups needing it at the same time and always figured it out," Keith said. "I'm to the point I thought they wouldn't let us scrimmage anybody but I was OK with that as long as we were able to get the kids on campus."