BISMARCK, ND — The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC), with 16 member schools including the University of Mary, has decided to terminate the 2020 fall sports season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This decision also suspends all outside competition in all sports through December 31. The announcement comes days after its governing body, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), cancelled all 2020 fall championships and subsequently implemented it’s Return-to-Sport Guidelines from its Sports Science Institute (SSI) for all athletic activity.

This decision currently allows for the start of the winter sports season and training on November 27, with competition beginning January 1, 2021.

University of Mary
Athletic Director, Dale Lennon

“The health and safety of our student-athletes, athletics personnel and greater campus communities is paramount,” said the NSIC, in a Q&A press release made available today. “In light of the recent decisions made by the NCAA Board of Governors to direct all institutions and conferences to meet specific requirements to conduct fall sports, it is no longer feasible to conduct outside competition this fall semester. We recognize the value an NCAA championship experience provides for student-athletes and that was a factor in the analysis. However, health and safety concerns prevailed in our decision.”

University of Mary’s administration, athletic training staff, and coaches are all saddened for the scholar-athletes, especially the seniors — who may choose the option of postponing their final year of competition until the fall of 2021 — but know the decision was made out of concern for the health and safety of the students, staff and coaches.

Monsignor James Shea
President, University of Mary

“While I’m disappointed with this necessary outcome, I want to be clear that this decision has been made to best ensure the health and safety of everyone involved in Marauders Athletics,” said University of Mary Athletic Director Dale Lennon. “As director of athletics, I vigorously pursued the opportunity to compete until we no longer had another option. The safety and well-being of our scholar-athletes was the driving force in our decision to cancel or suspend fall competition. Provisions are in place to assure that athletes will not be put in a compromising situation of having to make participation decisions that make them uncomfortable. Therefore, all athletes have the choice to ‘opt out’ of the fall workout phase and retain their athletic scholarship for the year.”

Monsignor James Shea, president of the University of Mary, said, “Our scholar-athletes and our coaching staff are vital members of the University of Mary family. We feel for them this day, and we are committed to support them in every way we can.”

All student-athletes enrolled full time are still allowed to receive aid, and since there’s no competition in the fall, they are not using a season of eligibility. The NSIC says additional clarification will be provided by August 21 from the NCAA. Student-athletes will arrive on campus on a timeline consistent with the start of University of Mary fall academic year that begins Tuesday, September 8.

“Although this is a disappointment for our student-athletes, coaches, staff, and University of Mary community, we understand the decision was made for the overall health and well-being of a greater population, than just ourselves” said Head Cross Country and Track and Field Coach, Dennis Newell. “It is easy to initially think of our personal losses, but with further clarity, understanding, and empathy we pray for a brighter tomorrow and for our leaders to continue to make quality decisions for our health and well-being. We have a lot of opportunities to make a difference in the world with our student-athletes outside of practice and competition.  We will continue to develop great human beings the way we always have, with virtue.”

“It is extremely disappointing that there will not be football this fall, but under the circumstances it is the right thing to do for the safety of all involved,” said Head Football Coach, Craig Bagnell. “I hurt for our seniors because of the work they have put into our program to play the game they love. I commend our leadership within the athletic department as Coach Lennon has navigated this tough time by being open and keeping us all up to date since this all began last March.  I am incredibly proud of each member of our program including our athletes, coaches, strength staff, and our trainers. As we look ahead, our program will move forward and I have no doubt, we will be stronger and ready for the day we get to step on the field again. Go Marauders!”

“The decision the NSIC came to today is unfortunate, but the right decision for the safety and well-being for all,” said Women’s Head Soccer Coach, Sarah Cook. “I am thankful for the University of Mary and the NSIC’s efforts and work to ensure the health and safety for our student athletes and staff. For our women’s soccer program, I am sad for the athletes, but so proud of how they have handled themselves throughout this unprecedented time, and know they will continue to thrive.”

“This news is certainly disappointing for all of our student-athletes and athletic department,” said Head Volleyball Coach Korie Tetzlaff. “At the University of Mary, we strive to constantly make the best of our situation, having faith that there is more in store for our future. Although this is a hard pill to swallow now, it also provides opportunities for creativity, growth and development in both volleyball and life. Rest assured that we will all get through this, continuing to do our part to stop the spread of the virus this fall and preparing for a greater future that lies ahead.”

The NSIC recognizes the impact this decision will have on the mental health of its student-athletes and will work with each member college and university to ensure the conference provides appropriate support. In addition, the University of Mary is fortunate to be the only university in the NSIC to have a chaplain devoted solely to the personal and spiritual care of its teams and scholar athletes.

The University of Mary currently has the most comprehensive athletic offerings in all of the NSIC with 18 NCAA sanctioned sports. During the 2018-2019 season, the Marauders athletics programs finished ranked No. 6 overall in the NSIC, and were on track for a top five finish before the abrupt conclusion to the 2019-2020 season. The 2020-2021 academic year is the first year of competition for the University of Mary men’s and women’s golf programs. Men’s and women’s golf is split into two seasons — fall and spring — and played at Hawktree Country Club, with a spring championship schedule still slated for after the new year in 2021.

“Looking forward, I have no doubt that we will come out of the pandemic with a better appreciation for the value of sport,” added Lennon. “Our strategic athletic plan, ‘Greatness through Virtue,’ emphasizes that while the object of sport is to win, the true purpose of sport is whole person development. The hardships endured, the opportunities lost, and the realization that sports are also vulnerable to circumstances out of our control have strengthened our understanding that the lessons learned in competition help prepare us for the challenges of life.”