The Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) plans to play sports this fall, but not without some scheduling changes, the conference announced in a statement Tuesday.
Competition will not begin before September 5, and athletes can begin practice starting August 15.
The GPAC is also creating a Return to Play Task Force, which will announce its health and safety policies in early August.
The statement from the conference: “The GPAC is taking all necessary actions to help our campuses and communities address this public health crisis. We remain committed to providing a positive and safe experience for our GPAC student-athletes.”
The GPAC is home to four Nebraska schools: Concordia, Doane, Hastings and Midland.
“I’m excited that the GPAC publicly acknowledged the plan to move forward for this fall,” said Hastings College Athletic Director BJ Pumroy. “We are doing all we can to insure the wellness and safety of our student athletes in the times of a public health crisis.”
Pumroy said things can change at any moment and plans may need to be adjusted. “However, the pathway to move forward to familiarity made for a promising day,” he said.
In a statement, Matt Franze, Doane athletic director said: “It was good to hear the clarity of the message from the GPAC and I think it shows the difference of the COVID climate in our region. The Heart of America Conference (Kansas, Missouri, Iowa schools) made the same announcement a day earlier. This is no guarantee that we will have sports as usual or on time, as things can change quickly as we know, but we feel like we have a clear target now and we’re optimistic that our work and planning may yet be rewarded.”
Midland athletic director Dave Gillespie also released a statement: “As an institution we are aligned with our conference’s decision to move forward with our fall sports schedule as planned.”