MOORHEAD — The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference is moving most of its fall sports to the spring season due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA Division III conference announced Tuesday, July 28.

“All of our campuses are really striving for physical distancing and athletics really just doesn’t allow for that," said MIAC commissioner Dan McKane. “I think over time we felt more and more concerned about trying to pull off fall sports in the coming months.”

Cross country, football, soccer and volleyball are the sports that are being moved to the spring as the NCAA has deemed them to be medium-to-high risk for COVID-19 transmission.

Men's and women's golf and tennis will be allowed to compete against conference-only opponents in the fall in accordance with health guidelines. The NCAA has identified golf and tennis to be low-risk sports for COVID-19 transmission.

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The league has 13 members, all private colleges and universities, with a league office based in Bloomington, Minn.

“The membership decided that was the best possible solution for health and safety and also to help preserve an experience this year," Concordia athletic director Rachel Bergeson said. "That’s why we took the direction to move the season and redesign the year instead of just cancel.”

Carleton College was the first league member to make a change to its fall season, announcing July 10 that the school canceled all competitions for fall sports. A few days later, the MIAC announced it was moving to conference-only play for the upcoming fall sports season due to COVID-19.

Those two decisions led up to Tuesday’s announcement to move fall sports to the spring. Bergeson said Concordia will plan to have golf competitions in the the fall, since that is when the MIAC championships are scheduled. She added the plan is to play tennis in the spring, when the league championships are currently slated for.

Bergeson said the league still plans to have conference-only schedules for the flipped fall sports pushed to the spring.

“We will still be just playing conference opponents at this time, so it will look different than a typical season in the fall," Bergeson said. "I know in the next three to four weeks that’s a high priority for us to figure out.”

Cobbers head football coach Terry Horan said he focused on the positives of moving the season to the spring with his team.

“The certain that we have right now is that we’re not canceled. We’re just getting moved," Horan said. "The biggest thing is, what’s spring going to look like? We’re not going to know that for the next several weeks.”

Training, practice and other athletic-related activities for all teams will be allowed in the fall while following NCAA rules and applicable health guidelines.

McKane said pushing fall sports back bought the league more time to provide a safe experience for the league's athletes.

“Over the next month, we’re going to start to plan what fall sports will look like in the spring. We’ll start to put together those guidelines," McKane said. “We want to see what the overlay of fall sports into spring sports will look like. We know that we have facility constraints, staffing constraints and how do we go about that? We want to make that a deliberate conversation.”

The NCAA Division III Management Council approved a proposal July 21 that allows schools the flexibility to move fall sports practices and competition into the spring for the upcoming school year. The proposal also allowed for sports seasons to be defined by days instead of weeks, and those days don't need to be used in consecutive weeks.

That decision gave the MIAC the flexibility to move fall sports.

“Athletics has such a critical role in the overall education experience and to salvage an experience for every student-athlete and for all of our programs, that was really critical, but at the same time that experience had to be safe," Bergeson said. “I fully support where our membership has decided to take this. ... We have a lot of logistics to figure out in the coming weeks.”

Bergeson said health guidelines for COVID-19 from the state and NCAA made it a daunting task to make fall sports happen on time. One of the NCAA recommendations was weekly testing for high-risk sports.

“The practicality of following some of the guidelines is a huge challenge," Bergeson said. “There certainly were high-cost implications to some of the recommendations.”

MIAC commissioner McKane added the league is going to have to also start to look at the winter sports season in the coming weeks.

“We’re next going to shift winter sports and to have those conversations," McKane said. "Can we start up competing in November? Or is it a shift like we’ve seen many other conferences do is to shift winter sports to starting competition in January. That is yet to be determined.”