’Now, it’s real’: Mood somber for Fort Hays State Athletics as MIAA suspends fall sports

Randy Gonzales
Special to Hays Daily News
Fort Hays State University wide receiver Manny Ramsey catches the ball for a touchdown against Northwest Missouri last season at Lewis Field Stadium in Hays. The MIAA announced the suspension of all fall sports until at least Jan. 1, 2021.

Fort Hays State University athletic director Curtis Hammeke and Tiger coaches and athletes figured this day was coming. Friday’s announcement made it official.

The Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association announced the suspension of all fall sports until at least Jan. 1, 2021. That means no Tiger football. No Tiger volleyball. No Tiger men’s and women’s cross country. No Tiger men’s and women’s soccer. No Tiger men’s and women’s golf. No Tiger women’s tennis.

“I think the reality of it, it’s very sad,” Hammeke said. “It’s sad to see the faces of our athletes and coaches. Now, it’s real.”

MIAA athletic directors met Wednesday and gave their recommendation to school presidents, who met Thursday. Earlier this month, NCAA Division II canceled fall sports championships.

“We all knew it didn’t look like we were going to be able to play this fall,” Hammeke said. “We wanted to wait as long as we could, see if the landscape would change, give us a chance to play.”

The MIAA release said the conference would explore limited competition in football, volleyball and women’s soccer in the spring. Men’s soccer is part of the Great American Conference and would follow its guidelines.

“Whatever we would do in the spring would be modified, and played without a championship,” Hammeke said. “I think as a conference we will look at what that could look like.”

Hammeke said he believed a conference school could opt out of participating in a fall sport this spring.

“I think in a climate like this, where there are health issues involved, I don’t think anyone will have to play,” he said.

The NCAA did relax health and safety protocols which will now allow schools like FHSU to hold practices for fall sports athletes.

“That was a silver lining that took place in the last week,” Hammeke said. “We will be able to meet the requirements to practice.”

Hammeke is in the process of meeting with each Tiger sports program.

“I do want to be in front of them, with the coaches, so I have the opportunity to answer questions,” he said, “and let them know we’re in support of them.”

Hammeke described the mood of the teams he has met with so far as “somber.”

“The rooms I spoke in were very quiet,” he said. “I wouldn’t have expected it to be any different.”

The MIAA also has set a deadline of Oct. 1 to make a decision on conference winter sports. Basketball and wrestling are scheduled to start in November.

In addition, Tiger Club – the booster organization for FHSU sports – will continue to not hold its regular weekly meetings. Hammeke said there is a possibility of periodic virtual meetings, in which coaches would provide updates for supporters.