COVID-19 protocols for fall athletics

Photo Courtesy|John Swanson
Benson Bunker Fieldhouse is set to be back and bumping this fall

Masks not required but are highly encouraged at NDSU sporting events for the near future

The fall semester is underway and with it comes the fall seasons for Bison sports. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Bison football, volleyball and soccer seasons were all pushed to last spring. Now, fans and players are finally allowed back at sporting events.

Tailgating and a full Fargodome of screaming fans have been dearly missed on Bison football game days. While masks will be not be required for entry into home games, spectators are fully encouraged to wear a mask and remain socially distanced whenever possible.

The remainder of North Dakota State University sports share similar protocols. Bison soccer at Dacotah Field is once again open to the general public for games in which fans are strongly encouraged to wear masks, though they are not required. Masks are also not required at NDSU home volleyball games at Benson Bunker Fieldhouse for vaccinated fans, but are encouraged for unvaccinated fans.

All protocols for winter and spring sports at NDSU are still to be determined. The success of the protocols for the fall sports may play a key factor into what the winter and spring protocols will look like.

The Missouri Valley Football Conference’s associate commissioner Mike Kern announced a forfeit policy for the conference this fall brought on by the MVFC’s President’s Council.

The announcement stated, “Consistent with the national trend, in the event that an institution determines that it is unable to compete in an MVFC contest for COVID-related reasons, that team will forfeit the game in question.”

This is a drastic change from the spring season of Missouri Valley football that allowed for games to be rescheduled if COVID-related issues cropped up. Now if a team is unable to participate due to a team outbreak of the virus, they will instead be forced to forfeit. The good news for Bison fans is 85 percent of Tier I personnel are vaccinated. Tier 1 personnel in the football program includes all players and coaches.

According to NDSU athletic director Matt Larsen, the goal is to get this number to 100 percent.

“Obviously, you want to continue until you get to 100 percent vaccination rate within your team and your travel party,” Larsen said. “We still have to continue to be smart and social distance and wear some masking as needed.

Larsen made it clear why avoiding a forfeit at all costs is so important.

“With so many opportunities in the sport of football, one forfeit could really change the course of your season and I think our guys understand that and don’t want to put ourselves in the position of forfeiting a game and that could be the difference between conference championship, playoffs, you name it.” 

Larsen also mentioned that vaccinated players will only be tested if they are showing symptoms. All unvaccinated athletes will continue to be tested weekly.

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