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PELLA — Prioritizing the physical and mental well-being of its student-athletes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Central College joined other American Rivers Conference schools in restructuring the fall season athletics schedules.

Central president Mark Putnam said the college sought a path that provides student-athletes with meaningful opportunities for competition, structured in a manner that promotes their physical safety, as well as their mental health.

By scheduling additional time between each match, game and meet, Central can maintain stringent and robust pre-participant screening protocols for student-athletes, coaches, support staff and game officials. League schools are working out details but team schedules will not exceed 50% of each sport’s maximum contest dates of competition.

Student-athlete and staff health will be closely monitored and schedules can be adjusted at any time.

“This approach was developed after careful thought and extensive discussions with our American Rivers Conference colleagues but also guided by the continued input and collective wisdom of our campus COVID-19 Athletics Protocol Task Force and state and national authorities,” Putnam said. “In Division III athletics, our focus remains on serving the sport participants rather than spectators. We’re mindful of the fact that athletics competition is an integral and critical component of their educational experience. Our goal is to find ways to provide that for them, just as we seek ways to facilitate on-campus classroom instruction, while doing so in a manner that provides for their safety and the safety of all involved.”

Student-athlete eligibility preserved

Additionally, because each of the teams will participate in less than 50% of the sport’s maximum contest/dates of competition, each student-athlete will be provided the option of extending their collegiate athletics careers by one season. On July 8 the NCAA Division III Administrative Committee approved a recommendation from the Division III Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement to provide a blanket waiver in all sports that are unable to reach the 50% threshold. Amending the criteria for a season-participation waiver ensures that student-athletes retain the opportunity to have four full seasons of participation opportunities.

“With the uncertainty that the pandemic has created throughout college athletics, we felt that it was important for our student-athletes to know as they prepare to return to campus that they can join their teammates in having safe and meaningful athletics competition this fall while continuing their academic pursuits without potentially sacrificing a year of athletics eligibility,” athletics director Eric Van Kley said.

In the fall the college offers intercollegiate competition in men’s and women’s cross country, football, women’s golf, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s tennis, volleyball and Central’s newest sport, triathlon.

Van Kley said that Central will also seek to offer some junior varsity competition with nearby opponents while limiting the amount of travel required.

Central follows safety guidelines and protocols as established by the Iowa Department of Public Health, Marion County Public Health, the Pella Regional Health Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Central collaborates with medical professionals to help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread. The athletics department is under the guidance of its physician, the college’s senior leadership team and state and local health agencies.

Updates and resources from the college on plans for returning to campus for the 2020-21 academic year can be accessed at central.edu/health. Fall semester classes begin Aug. 26.

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