DELHI TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Mount St. Joseph University football coach Tyler Hopperton joked he may need to order some warmer coaching gear if he's on the sideline this winter.
A spring football season likely would start in February or March if all goes as planned for MSJ.
"I think it's a new adventure, and our guys are excited -- they'll compete any way they can," Hopperton said. "So we'll see once it's a Tuesday in February and we're practicing. I think our guys are just anxious to get out there."
A week after the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) Council of Presidents unanimously voted to postpone the football season until spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference is planning ahead for 2021 and optimistic that a season could be completed.
"In adjusting to the challenges presented by the pandemic, these modifications maintain safety as the highest priority but help ensure the opportunity for as much participation as possible in each HCAC sport," the conference said in a statement.
Hopperton is viewing the adversity of this fall as a unique opportunity.
That was the tone of a Zoom team meeting early last week. There was obvious disappointment at the lost chance for playing football this fall. Yet, the reality was there was little surprise as many NCAA Division III football programs encountered a similar outcome.
"We talked about our convictions being stronger than our circumstances," Hopperton said. "Our goals don't change. The path to get there is definitely changing, but our guys still understand that there is a lot of work that needs to be done to achieve our goals whenever we get that opportunity to do that."
The HCAC also postponed men's and women's soccer and women's volleyball.
The HCAC said it will continue with fall seasons with golf, tennis and cross country. The conference also will schedule some competitions in baseball and softball in the fall that will not count toward league standings.
MSJ will continue to have golf and cross country seasons this fall, according to sports information manager Blake Watson.
The most pressing concern in early 2021 could be the amount of sports happening at MSJ at the same time.
The scheduling logistics are still being worked out by the HCAC, according to Melanee Wagener, MSJ's acting director of athletics.
Wagener said the NCAA is allowing 114 days for each sport so some of the postponed sports this fall may still be able to have practice. She said the spring season likely will have to be held between February and April, although details haven't been finalized.
"I will tell you this is going to be sheer craziness because every sport will be going at the same time with the exception of the men's and women's cross country team and women's golf," Wagener said. "So fitting those all in the spring is going to be really challenging and difficult."
Hopperton said the decision to postpone football for this fall was all about the health and safety of the student-athletes and MSJ employees. The Lions will utilize this fall as a recruiting and evaluation period.
"Ultimately, it doesn't help to complain any," Hopperton said. "Our opponents are out there grinding and working or least they should be. And that's what we got to do, too."
Wagener said the message is clear to student-athletes at MSJ.
"I think it's really just to persevere," Wagener said. "To take it for what it is and there is no way to control it so let's figure out ways to stay in shape, let's figure out ways to engage each other in different activities not only with your sport but other things on campus."