Throughout the pandemic, Gary Fasching has gotten used to having more questions than answers. The St. John's football coach felt the same way Wednesday, even after the MIAC announced fall and spring sports can begin competition this week.
The league will allow fall sports postponed by the pandemic — football, volleyball, soccer and cross-country — to have abbreviated seasons, starting Friday and running through May 15. No conference champions will be crowned, and there will be no league playoffs. The MIAC's spring sports will play full league schedules, including conference tournaments, starting as soon as Friday.
Football teams can hold up to four games, exhibitions and scrimmages, with no league schedule. But it is unclear how many schools will participate, or whether St. John's and St. Thomas will play a final game as MIAC rivals.
"Hopefully, we can make something happen, but I don't know," he said. "We're going to start practice March 15, and we'll probably make decisions after a week or two.
"I've told the other coaches in the league, I don't think we should even schedule games until we know for sure we can pull this off. I think trying to play games under these guidelines is going to be really difficult."
The MIAC announcement said athletes must wear masks during all practices and competitions, and schools will follow NCAA testing standards for each sport. Fasching said the cost and logistics of testing large football rosters could be challenging for some schools. He also noted that St. John's basketball and hockey teams already have had two COVID-related pauses, and he anticipates it will be even harder to prevent infection among his 180 players.
In addition, several MIAC football players also participate in spring sports and would not be available for spring football games. Concordia officials said Wednesday that was a factor in their decision to hold only practices and an intrasquad scrimmage in football this spring.
Fasching expects some other schools also will choose not to play outside competition. St. Thomas declined an interview request and did not release any details about its plans; in a statement, it said "we need to be flexible as we work to give our student-athletes the best experience we can."
The Tommies will move up to Division I next season. Fasching said he has heard St. Thomas does not want to play D-III teams after the move, meaning the storied rivalry could be over if the teams don't play this spring.
"I don't know what their thinking is as far as moving forward," Fasching said. "We might have seen the last [Johnnie-Tommie game], but I don't know."
The MIAC also announced it will not crown regular-season conference champions in men's and women's basketball and hockey this year, and it will not give postseason awards in winter sports. Basketball teams will be allowed to compete later than the original end date of March 6, and hockey teams can continue to play past March 13.