J.J. Eckert

J.J. Eckert will be in his second year as Northeastern State head football coach in 2020.

Northeastern State student-athletes started to make their return to campus for summer workouts on Monday after the MIAA approved a set of guidelines for moving forward with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Athletic administrators of the MIAA approved a list of principles to help guide decisions about what they call “Return to Competition” last week, principles that were recommended by the MIAA’s COVI-19 Task Force.

"The MIAA's Guiding Principles for Return to Campus, Return to Competition is an important tool for our member institutions as they continue to develop action plans and protocols to welcome students, staff, and visitors back to campus", explained MIAA Commissioner Mike Racy in a press release. "These important decisions about how each campus will prepare for fall sports will be made at the local level, and the MIAA office will continue to provide important resources to aid these decisions."

There’s nine MIAA COVID-19 Task Force Guiding Principles that include: Health and Safety, Fairness and Safety, Local Decision-making, NCAA Guidance, USCAH Resources, Transparency, Conference Schedule, Communication and Flexibility.

Health and Safety: The safety of MIAA student-athletes, coaches and staff is paramount and those considerations should guide the Association as our member institutions begin to reopen campus and prepare to host intercollegiate practices and competitions.

Fairness and Safety: The MIAA is committed to the fair and safe conduct of all athletic events.

Local Decision-making: Campus athletics will operate with approval of each MIAA school’s leadership, and the school will be operating in accordance with local and state public officials regarding a return to campus, a return to practice and a return to competition. In the end, school and governmental leadership determine who can participate in, assist with, and watch student-athlete practices and competition.

NCAA Guidance: A recently released NCAA document, “Core Principles of Resocialization of Sport” should help MIAA member schools make decisions about its intercollegiate athletics program. The NCAA document takes into consideration federal guidelines, which rely on health experts, data and science. http://www.ncaa.org/sport-science-institute/core-principles-resocialization-collegiate-sport

USCAH Resources: The U.S. Council for Athletes’ Health (USCAH), a strategic partner of the MIAA, has recently developed a six-part “Return to Sport Health and Safety Framework”, which provides suggestions for campuses as they open for the return of student-athletes, athletic department staff and visitors/fans. An MIAA school may use USCAH resources (https://www.uscah.com/blog/) as it addresses “return to campus, return to competition” issues.

Transparency: It is important for MIAA universities to be transparent with Campus “Return to Competition” Action Plans and Policies, and these plans should be provided to other MIAA schools to share best practices and to provide notice to visitors regarding campus protocols.

Conference Schedule: The MIAA conference schedule should be prioritized. If events need to be cancelled in 2020-21, it should be non-conference events.

Communication: It can be anticipated (even with COVID-19 testing improvements) that an athlete, coach, etc. will subsequently test positive for COVID-19 sometime after a competition has occurred. Safety and communication protocols must be followed in all instances to inform persons recently in contact with the individual who tested positive.

Flexibility: As noted, state and local authorities will have control over the startup of public events. The conference office will be expected to manage differences in campus protocols and approaches, and the commissioner is empowered to switch home sites as dictated by decisions of the local governing authorities and campus leaders in order to maintain the integrity of conference competition.

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