On behalf of the NIRSA Championship Series, I wanted to take a moment to share some updates regarding the process in place to determine plans for the 2020-2021 season. We understand that the current climate has caused a lot of uncertainty not only within our own institutions, but with many of the National Governing Bodies (NGBs) that our sport club and intramural sports programs work with on an annual basis. This elicits numerous questions from both athletes and administrators, and we all want to ensure that our students and volunteers/staff members are safe. NGB’s should also have appropriate plans to make fair and equitable decisions for the protection of all parties. Nobody understands the need to prioritize safety better than the NIRSA Championship Series, which is led by a staff at NIRSA HQ and a large group of NIRSA member volunteers who are working to create safe environments at their own institutions, and have been brainstorming how the Championship Series can still deliver on our promise of offering premier championship experiences going forward.

The process so far has been multi-faceted, so I’ll share what we know so far as well as our future plans. Several key factors are in play and have been considered. To highlight some of the major points, certain things all have to work out in order for a successful season to become plausible in each of our sports.

The considerations

Government and institution regulations have to make it possible and realistic to host a tournament. These regulations vary from state to state and are changing more quickly in some areas of the country than others, which creates some complications when making decisions for a nationwide (and international) program.

Our host institutions, which are such key contributors to the success of the Series, have to be able to responsibly host an event in the coming season. In late May, we sent an initial survey to institutions that have hosted in the past two years (or had already applied this year) to gain some perspective regarding their intentions and timetables for decisions to be made on their campuses. Some of the results of that survey, broken down by each sport in the Series, can be seen here:

Even if we have institutions that are willing to host and regulations do not place insurmountable barriers in place, we’ll need teams’ and participants’ support in order to facilitate successful tournaments. We understand that there are a variety of issues including budget, travel, health concerns, etc. that must be factored in. We also understand that issues may not be consistent amongst teams in our different sport offerings. We have kept our ear close to the conversations about sport clubs through the Ideas in Motion roundtables, and will be taking additional steps to engage stakeholders in the coming weeks. Ultimately, the final decision will be driven by data, with our members being key influencers through the information they provide. Look out for opportunities to share your perspective and knowledge either through personal conversations, additional surveys, etc. in the coming weeks. Stay involved!

Coinciding with a decision regarding if tournaments will be a possibility, we also have to consider how they will become a possibility onsite. This means the development of safety guidelines specific to each sport. We will continue to review guidelines set by the CDC, work with health professionals, and will be keeping an eye on other sports entities (NCAA, NFHS, SC NGB’s, etc.) to ensure we create a comprehensive plan that is consistent with industry best practices.

The NIRSA Championship Series Executive Team has been meeting with work team chairs to think through other logistics, create action plans, and discuss potential pivots for this coming year. This includes looking at virtual offering possibilities for volunteers, officials, and participants.

One of the questions that has arisen most often is “What timeline will govern these decisions?” The NIRSA Championship Series relies on member institutions as both hosts and support for sending teams and volunteers to events, so as decisions are made in states and regions across the country, it will give us a better gauge on how we can operate successfully. In the host survey that was completed in late May, approximately 45% of responses indicated that it was too soon to make informed decisions regarding their ability to serve as a host. It is our understanding that more institutions plan to make decisions for the fall semester in the month of July; we will be heavily involved in those conversations and will communicate further updates as they become available. We appreciate your patience and flexibility as we all navigate this unprecedented moment in history.

If you have any direct questions, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Associate Director For Facility Operations at University of Florida | NIRSA Profile

Marty Dempsey, Chair of the NIRSA Championship Series, is currently the Associate Director For Facility Operations at the University of Florida.