BLUEFIELD, Va. — The first student-athletes of the 2020-21 school year were scheduled to arrive on campus today at Bluefield College.
Exactly what kind of fall semester they’ll experience isn’t entirely clear, but it seems apparent that whatever shape things take won’t be business as usual.
While football practice for the Rams won’t officially begin until August 15, football players begin showing up today to start an extended period of orientation and processing under new coronavirus protocols in advance of official practice.
“We have approximately 120 football players who’ll be moving in over the next few days,” said Bluefield College Sports Information Director Bob Redd. “We’ll be testing them for everything. We’ll be doing physicals and a lot of evaluations like that. And there will possibly be some team meetings,” he said.
Earlier this week, the NAIA Council of Presidents voted to move the fall sports championships of women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer and men’s and women’s cross country to spring of 2021. The timing of the NAIA national football championships is scheduled to be addressed by the NAIA sometime today. It is not yet clear whether these decisions will result in an eventual NAIA-wide postponement or modification of regular season fall play in these sports. Prior to this week’s earlier announcement, 51 NAIA-affiliated institutions had already chosen to postpone all fall competition until spring of 2021. Bluefield College is not one of them.
Essentially, the fate of fall athletics at Bluefield College this year will rest in the hands of their respective conferences. Rams football and men’s volleyball compete in the Mid-South Conference. Everything else competes in the Appalachian Athletic Conference. Last week, the AAC announced that its 21 member institutions intended to compete in the fall sports they sponsor.
As of Thursday evening, the Mid-South Conference had yet to make an announcement regarding whether the football regular season will be played this fall or be moved to the spring semester.
In advance of the first Bluefield College athletic arrivals of the new academic year, Rams Athletic Director Tonia Walker released an official online statement on Thursday.
“First, I would like to express my appreciation for your patience as we move forward during these unprecedented times for our athletic department and our college,” announced Walker.
“Although the NAIA has left us with some decisions to make, at this point no decision has been made regarding this fall. Be assured that every effort is being made to secure the safety of our student-athletes as we return to campus and return to play,” the statement read. “Keeping in line with the athletic department’s vision statement, our student-athletes are our top priority.”
The issue of athletics is certainly not a marginal one for Bluefield College, which in recent years has boasted an enrollment in which upwards of 70 percent or more of all students have participated in at least one interscholastic varsity sport.
Bluefield College football players are the vanguard of student athletes who’ll be arriving early for the fall semester. Next week women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s soccer players begin arriving on campus.
New students from the general population begin arriving on campus on Aug. 15 with returning students showing up on Aug. 17. The first day of classes for the 16-week fall term is Aug. 19.