Following debate and holding out hope until nearly the last minute, the Great American Conference's Council of Presidents voted to suspend all fall and winter sports through Dec. 31.
That effectively put a halt to Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s fall athletic competitions, although some are still holding out hope that student-athletes in those sports will be able to participate in a season of some sort during the spring.
"This was a very difficult decision for our campus and especially our student-athletes and coaches," Southeastern President Thomas Newsom said. "We are disappointed that we will not have Savage Storm athletic competitions this fall.
"This effects not only the student-athletes, but a wider group of students that includes cheer, dance and the SE Marching Band. In concern for the safety of our student-athletes and our community, and with the recent guidelines from the NCAA, our ability to compete has become unrealistic.
"We are still extremely excited about our student-athletes starting fall classes ... and the opportunities to engage them on campus. This decision does give us the ability to conduct fall practices for all of our teams, and that is our plan in preparation for resuming competition in the spring."
Plenty of questions remain, however, as it is not as simple as just moving games to the spring at a school the size of Southeastern, with all the logistics involved as well as limited personnel.
With the entire football and volleyball seasons moving to spring and basketball not starting until after Jan. 1, there would be roughly 11 intercollegiate sports trying to play their seasons simultaneously.
Some ideas have had basketball games being held on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday nights, football on Friday nights with baseball and softball games taking place early in the day on Saturdays and Sundays. But that would still leave a lot of other sports still in limbo.
"There’s just a lot of questions with moving fall sports and athletes," Southeastern Athletic Director Keith Baxter stated. "It brings about a series of questions of whether you can realistically host 11 sports all at one time. The scheduling component would be pretty difficult and travel, which some people don’t think of. Most of the schools in this area utilize the same chartered bus companies, which presents a problem.
"There is also the question that if we do compete in spring, does it count as a year of eligibility for those student-athletes? Every decision made has a ripple effect. If you carry over 24 football players, what does that do to your recruiting? Three years down the road, you could be missing almost a full class. No one has ever gone through this before, so nothing is really applicable. Every day is a new page for us. The fortunate thing is that most college athletes have an option to hold off and play another year. High school athletes don’t get a red shirt or are able to sit a year."
In the meantime, while waiting for those spring seasons, the question now focuses on practice time and how the NCAA will handle all that.
All Southeastern athletes were tested for the COVID-19 virus upon checking in for the fall school semester, and those who were positive will quarantine for 14 days. But Baxter is still skeptical about how that will work without a controlled environment and testing every day, which is not possible.
"You see what happened with OU," he said. "They sent football players home for five days and had nine test positive when they returned. About the only way you can steer completely clear at this point is a controlled environment. We just work and do the best we can protection-wise and with masks to see what we can do to lower the curve.
"I think it’s important to see student-athletes engaged. They are conditioned to have a structure and if you take that away, it could affect their mental health or other areas. I hope we don’t get to point where we can’t practice or workout in the weight room. You have to allow them to work out and train in the off season and be ready to go when we have the opportunity to compete again."
While athletes do informal workouts on their own, Southeastern coaches wait for the NCAA to hand down requirements on how to proceed with regular practices.
"The decision to suspend athletic competitions was made for us, but I give the board of directors and our commissioner credit," Baxter commented. "They tried every way possible to give the athletes the competitive experience they deserve.
"Like everybody, our athletes want to get back to some sense of normal in the least-restrictive way possible. We are still awaiting what we can do practice-wise from the NCAA and looking for the best scenarios possible in a safe, healthy and protected environment."
And, much like the past five months during the coronavirus pandemic, it is completely out of their hands.