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Arkansas Baptist football postponed

by Jeremy Muck | July 14, 2020 at 3:44 a.m.

Richard Wilson has played or coached football in the fall since 1967, when he was in the fourth grade.

Now, the Arkansas Baptist College football coach will have to wait until the spring to coach the Buffaloes in a regular-season game.

The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) announced Monday it is moving the majority of its fall sports, including football, to the spring semester in 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's different," Wilson said. "But I'm just tickled pink that even if we aren't playing this fall, we'll have an alternative."

The NJCAA football season will begin in March as part of the organization's shift of close-contact sports (football, volleyball and soccer) from the fall to spring. Only cross country and tennis will be played this fall in the NJCAA.

Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock is the only NJCAA school to play football in the state.

Other NJCAA schools in the state include Arkansas State University Mid-South in West Memphis, National Park College in Hot Springs, North Arkansas in Harrison, South Arkansas Community College in El Dorado, Southern Arkansas University Tech in Camden, and the University of Arkansas at Cossatot in De Queen.

Arkansas Baptist track and field Coach Cedric Vaughn said he understands the decision, but disagrees with it.

"It makes it even harder," Vaughn said. "We're here to help and give opportunities to kids. Some of these kids believe that, 'Track was my avenue.'

"What is going to happen? When is it going to happen?"

Vaughn said with football moving to the spring, the chances of having football players also run track in 2021 are slim.

NJCAA football teams can begin practice for the spring season March 1, and games will be allowed to start March 25. A maximum of eight games can be played through May 22, with the NJCAA Football Championship held June 3.

Football teams can practice during the fall from Aug. 15-Nov. 15, with a maximum of three scrimmage dates against outside competition.

Of the 530 member colleges of the NJCAA, 54 play football. Arkansas Baptist is an independent member in football.

The NJCAA basketball season will begin Jan. 22, with practice starting Jan. 11. A maximum of 22 games will be allowed and all regular-season, regional and district championship competitions must be completed by April 10. The NJCAA men's and women's basketball championships are scheduled to begin April 19.

Indoor and outdoor track and field teams can begin practice Jan. 4 with competition beginning Jan. 18. Baseball and softball teams can start practice Jan. 10 and play games Jan. 22, while wrestling will start practicing Jan. 4 and competition Jan. 20.

Wilson said Arkansas Baptist players are scheduled to report July 26 with a tentative first day of class scheduled for Aug. 3. There are 60 players in the Buffaloes program.

He said that players will have to have a covid-19 test before they reach campus, and a negative result must be published on a letterhead from the player's physician.

"We're trying to do everything we can," Wilson said. "We want to create a safe environment for our players. This is a fluid situation."


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