The two-time NCAA Division II national champion Minnesota Duluth football team will not be adding a third NCAA title in 2020.
No Bulldogs sports team or individual will have a shot at a national championship this fall after the NCAA canceled all Division II and III championship events on Wednesday due to the unchecked COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.
UMD’s volleyball team is coming off an NCAA tournament appearance in 2019, having reached the national tournament in 17 of the last 18 seasons and 22 times overall. UMD football, national champs in 2008 and 2010, has made 11 NCAA tournament appearances with the most recent coming in 2016 and 2018.
"Bulldog Athletics is disappointed that our student-athletes will not have the opportunity to compete for NCAA championships this fall, but understands and respects the NCAA's decision in the interest of public health,” UMD athletic director Josh Berlo said in a statement. “At this time we are focused on supporting our student-athletes, helping them navigate the current challenges and making the most of the coming fall semester."
The NCAA Board of Governors issued specific requirements Wednesday that schools and conferences must meet if they chose to play during the pandemic. The status of national championship events were left up the the three divisions and an Aug. 21 deadline was issued. The D-II and D-III presidents councils only took a few hours to announce national competitions would not be feasible due to a coronavirus that also cost the NCAA winter and spring sports championships.
Both D-II and D-III also ruled out postponing fall championships and holding them in the spring as well.
“Holding fall championships in any capacity was not a viable or fiscally responsible option for Division II,” said Sandra Jordan, chair of the D-II council and chancellor of University of South Carolina Aiken. “This decision was discussed very thoroughly, and I assure you, it was not made lightly. It is important to note that fall student-athletes will be given eligibility-related flexibility to allow them championship opportunities in the future.”
Among the requirements for NCAA postseason play was a threshold of 50% sponsorship for championships to be conducted. In Division II, 11 of the 23 conferences have announced they would not compete in the fall.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the NSIC was among the 12 D-II leagues still planning to play this fall. However, the league was only going to hold in-conference competition during the regular season.
The league announced July 27 it is delaying the start of the 2020 fall sports seasons. Football and cross country competitions were pushed back to Sept. 26 while volleyball and soccer won’t hold matches until Oct. 2.
NSIC commissioner Erin Lind said Wednesday was a tough day and that her heart aches for the league’s student-athletes.
“It’s sad for our student athletes to know the ultimate prize — when you're competing — the result that you're striving for, isn't there anymore,” Lind said. “But I also know and trust and believe in the health experts that help guide our association.
“And — my goodness — we're dealing with a pandemic. So, as hard as the information is, we know that the experts have been evaluating and debating for an extended period of time. Knowing now there's at least that answer, it helps our membership come back together and go, ‘OK, now what's our path?’”
Lind said the league will meet within the next five days to discuss what is next for NSIC fall sports. If the league and its members do decide to continue on this fall — or at a later time — they will have to meet an ever-changing set of health and safety standards put forth by the NCAA Sports Science Institute, including regular testing for athletes, coaches, medical staff, officials and other essential personnel.
Lind said while it may vary from school to school, a good majority of the requirements can be reached, but testing will be a challenge.
“What the hope is that as time evolves, testing evolves, opportunities for testing evolves, and we can fit that piece of what is now becoming the expectation,” Lind said. “But there's a lot of things in the document that are achievable that talk about masking both ways, that talk about social distancing and hygiene practices. All the things we're all aware of and that we need our student-athletes to know that this is what needs to happen.”
Division I did not announce the fate of any of its fall sports on Wednesday.
Division III was the first division to announce the cancellation of its fall sports on Wednesday. Tori Murden McClure, chair of the D-III presidents council and president at Spalding University in Kentucky, said in a statement council determined the financial and logistical ramifications were logistically untenable and financially prohibitive in the fall and spring.
The UMAC, home of St. Scholastica and Wisconsin-Superior, announced July 30 it is pursuing opportunities for conference play in the spring for football, soccer and volleyball, however, all three sports are allowed to find nonconference competition in the fall. Golf and cross country will continue in the fall, but be limited to conference-only competition.
Wisconsin-Superior is not playing volleyball and soccer in the fall, while St. Scholastica said it is continuing to explore events for football, volleyball and soccer.
This story was updated at 6:59 p.m. on Aug. 5, 2020 with more details and information from the NCAA, NSIC and UMD. It was originally posted at 4:52 p.m. Aug. 5, 2020.