University of Jamestown postpones football opener, grappling with COVID-19

UJ FB coach Mistro mask 2020.jpg
UJ football coach Brian Mistro (foreground) wears a mask on opening day of NAIA football practices Aug. 15, 2020, at the Jimmie turf field. Michael Savaloja / The Sun

JAMESTOWN, N.D. — The University of Jamestown continues to battle a surge of COVID-19 in Stutsman County and subsequently on campus.

Four days after postponing its first five women's volleyball matches of 2020 in light of athlete-related coronavirus infections and close contacts, the university announced Monday it has elected to postpone its opening football game originally scheduled for this Saturday, Sept. 12, against Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa.

University of Jamestown athletic director Sean Johnson said the decision to postpone the game was UJ's and not Briar Cliff's. Saturday is the opening day of football competition in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) during the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, the NAIA elected to move all of its fall sports championships to spring 2021. The NAIA football championship is scheduled to be played May 10 at Grambling State University in Louisiana.

"There isn't an outbreak on the football team, but we've got to get a better handle on contact tracing," said Johnson, who confirmed positive cases have been identified on UJ's football team. "We just want to make sure that we know exactly what our situation is with the utmost confidence before moving forward."


The North Dakota Department of Health revealed 18 new cases of coronavirus Monday in Stutsman County after the county reported a single-day record of 49 cases Sunday. There are currently 170 active cases of COVID-19 in Stutsman County.

Most of Sunday's 49 new cases - 41 - were reported from a public testing event on Friday at the Jamestown Civic Center parking lot . The event only had the capacity to test 400 people and people were then reportedly turned away.

The state reported 171 total positive cases Monday and there are 2,565 total active cases.

"We have the resources to do free testing in our community and that's not the case in other places," Johnson said. "People are doing the right thing by getting tested, but the more tests you have the more you're gonna reveal about your true situation, and that's going to lead to contact tracing and making sure your process is going the right way."

Johnson said university officials are planning to meet Monday with head coaches and others within the athletic department in an effort to put their best foot forward in limiting the spread of the virus on campus so that other teams aren't negatively impacted and fall sports can hopefully move forward.

The University of Jamestown women's soccer team opened the fall with victories in Iowa at Graceland University and William Penn University over the weekend.


"I've talked to other athletic directors at other schools, that's the biggest hurdle ... making sure that you have a good process and trying to work with the different entities involved," Johnson said.

UJ women's volleyball isn't scheduled to see the court until at least Sept. 18 when it travels to Sioux Center, Iowa, to play Dordt Univesity. Johnson said the university is hoping the football team will be able to take the field Sept. 19 at Dordt, the next scheduled opponent.

UJ is planning a joint homecoming/2020 spring commencement event Oct. 10 when Jimmie football is scheduled to host Doane University. UJ football began practicing on Aug. 15 with 131 players listed on its preseason roster.

"We're always going to err on the side of caution so we can move forward with the rest of the fall," Johnson said. "We're gonna be cautious just like we were last weekend. The health and safety of our student-athletes is our No. 1 priority."

UJ FB coach Mistro mask 2020.jpg
UJ football coach Brian Mistro (foreground) wears a mask on opening day of NAIA football practices Aug. 15, 2020, at the Jimmie turf field. Michael Savaloja / The Sun

Jimmies’ 2020 Schedule
Sept. 12: @ Briar Cliff University (POSTPONED)
Sept. 19: @ Dordt University
Sept. 26: vs. Northwestern College (Iowa), 1 p.m.
Oct. 3: @ Concordia University (Nebraska)
Oct. 10: vs. Doane University, 2 p.m., homecoming
Oct. 17: vs. Morningside College, 1 p.m.
Oct. 24: @ Midland University
Oct. 31: vs. Hastings College, 1 p.m.
Nov. 14: vs. Dakota Wesleyan University, 1 p.m.
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