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Northwest Conference postpones start of high-contact fall sports until spring of 2021

UPDATED: Wed., July 22, 2020

Whitworth coach Rod Sandberg led his Pirates against Linfield on Nov. 9, 2019, but the next matchup between the teams may be in the spring.  (Dan Pelle/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Whitworth coach Rod Sandberg led his Pirates against Linfield on Nov. 9, 2019, but the next matchup between the teams may be in the spring. (Dan Pelle/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

Many winter and spring athletes at Whitworth had their seasons cut short earlier this year due to the pandemic, but there was hope that come fall a return to normalcy would be possible.

For the majority of its fall sports athletes, that’s not going to be the case.

The Northwest Conference, of which Whitworth and eight other teams in Washington and Oregon are a part, pushed its seasons for football, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s rowing and women’s volleyball to the spring.

Whitworth does not have a rowing team, but it does sponsor the other four.

“I think we’ve gotten used to not being surprised by anything anymore,” said Tim Demant, Whitworth’s athletics director. “It’s definitely not something we wanted to have happen, but at this point the conference feels like it has no other options.”

Other Division III conferences have opted to take similar measures or to cancel their seasons entirely. Postponing will be complicated, but “the goal is to have as close to normal as we can,” Demant said.

Men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s golf, and women’s tennis will be permitted to play this fall, according to the NWC statement, provided they can comply with local, state and federal health directives.

The NWC is working to develop a schedule for competition for these sports in the spring.

As far as how the department will handle the logistics of jamming spring, fall and potentially even the tail end of some winter sports into the same time, that was something Demant said they hadn’t determined. He characterized those decisions still being at “a 30,000-foot level,” but that they would be planning accordingly.

Potentially, though, by flipping fall sports to the spring, those teams could still hold some practices this fall, Demant said. He said the department hadn’t yet hashed out what that might look like.

Coaches would also determine how to conduct meetings and practices while adhering to social distancing guidelines, Demant said.

“We’re used to doing what we need to do to make it work,” Demant said. “Nobody enjoys having to have 14 contingencies, but we want our kids to have that experience, and we’ll do whatever we can to make that happen.”

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