After the MIAA CEO Council announced the postponement of fall sports Aug. 14, Northwest Director of Athletics Andy Peterson said the process was something that kept him up at night.
A little more than a month later, a reversal of that decision has Peterson tossing and turning again.
On Sept. 19, developments came to light of a possible return of MIAA football this fall. After the athletic directors among the MIAA passed a vote 10-2, it was determined that the fate of fall sports would be left to the discretion of each member institution.
Another vote from the CEO Council included a 5-5 tie with two member schools abstaining, according to a report from the Topeka Capital-Journal. If the latter of the two votes passed, there would have been a conference slate of MIAA football games.
“The MIAA, we’re not asking them to come up with a conference schedule,” Peterson said. “It was more of just let each institution make their own call.”
During an interview Sept. 13 with KNWT Channel 8’s Bearcat Update, Peterson said that the MIAA couldn’t conduct fall sports because of the rather lofty testing requirements from the NCAA.
Peterson said Sept. 21 that the athletic directors passed the vote because of new availabilities in testing, as well as modifications to the NCAA’s COVID-19 testing requirements. Some member schools, Peterson said, didn’t have the funds to test. Other schools didn’t have the nearby resources to conduct the tests with an adequate turnaround for results.
“The NCAA did clarify that (polymerase chain reaction test) is the gold standard, but that doesn’t have to be a nasal swab or brain swab, it can be spit tests,” Peterson said. “I think some of our communities, either through donors or location to some medical laboratories — a bunch of different stuff — they’ve just got to the point where they feel they can make it happen.”
As for Northwest football, and the rest of the sports that were previously postponed, the option to play games this fall is now available.
“It’s not just the football program, or the athletic department, or the campus, or the community,” Peterson said. “It’s all of those things together at once. That makes it, you know, it’s a wormhole that doesn’t stop once you go down it. I’ve talked myself in circles 25 times trying to figure out what to do and how to do it best.”
Hours after the initial developments, Pittsburg State became the first MIAA school to announce a scheduled competition. Pitt will travel to face FCS school Stephen F. Austin Nov. 14.
“We haven't specifically reached out to Northwest Missouri State, but certainly aren't opposed to playing them,” Stephen F. Austin Director of Athletics Ryan Ivey said. “I have a previous connection to the AD at Pitt State, so it just happened to work out.”
Missouri Western announced Sept. 21 that the Griffons would hit the road to take on Central Arkansas Oct. 31.
“I’ve had a few phone calls that haven’t been returned,” Peterson said about the possibility of Northwest having games this fall. “You can go through all the work, we can test and make it work, but if there’s nobody to play then there’s nobody to play. … We’ll keep pecking on that box as we can.”
To play or not to play has been a hot-button debate topic during the months leading up to a possible season. Peterson said that along with trying to provide a memorable experience for the student-athletes, it has to be within the best interests of everyone.
Peterson noted that a decision to play would serve to provide a moment for the athletes that don’t deem putting their futures on hold feasible, and giving them games this fall would hopefully provide closure to situations.
And amid an abundance of injuries throughout the first couple of weeks of the NFL season, it adds another area of concern and consideration for Peterson.
“I’ve got zero data to back this up, so this is my opinion, there have been a ton of injuries for Week 1 and 2 of the NFL,” Peterson said. “I feel strongly that’s because they didn’t have their normal preseason. I’m not wishing ill upon anybody, obviously, but that’s a serious consideration that we’ve gotta take into account. So, are we for the wrong reasons saying that we’re going to play some football games this fall and rushing kids into playing when they’re not physically ready yet?”
With trying to keep the student-athletes’ safety in mind, Peterson said that’s just the beginning of logistics that would have to be worked out for competition to happen this fall.
“Another piece of it is the revenue side,” Peterson said. “If you have games in Bearcat Stadium, that’s great, but are you going to allow fans in? If you allow fans in, is it gonna be parents? Are you going to charge parents? Are you gonna charge ’em four times what they usually pay?”
“It’s ongoing and never-ending. It doesn’t cost nothing to put on a football game. We’ve gotta pay officials, scorekeepers, game clock, you’ve gotta do all of this other stuff. … This is where you just get lost in stuff.”
Peterson is trying to figure out whether conducting any form of competition this fall would be a detriment winter and spring sports. Winter and spring sports have been impacted twice already due to COVID-19 with the cancellation of 2019-2020 championships, as well as having their schedules modified for 2020-21.
A third modification, Peterson said, is something that he’s heavily taking into consideration throughout the process. It’s something that he doesn’t want to emotionally tax those athletes with, he said.
“In the grand scheme of things, it’s gonna cost a whole lot more in number of tests and dollars to test the football program five, six, seven, eight or nine times, than what it would cost us to get all through the spring and all of the sports that are playing that still have championship opportunities,” Peterson said. “It’s tough.”
Whether Northwest football will put the pads on this fall is uncertain, or any fall sport for that matter. And the MIAA CEO Council is set to make a decision about winter sports by an Oct. 1 deadline.
For now, Peterson is left piecing together considerations to deem what’s best for student-athletes at Northwest.
“It’s an ongoing battle to try and figure out what’s best for our football program, or soccer program, or volleyball program, or cross country program, all of our winter and spring sports, our department, the University, campus, Maryville community, Nodaway county, northwest Missouri, fans, no fans, revenue, expenses, testing supplies,” Peterson said. “It’s hard, man. It’s hard.”