Lions’ fall canceled: Finlandia’s move means four teams won’t play in autumn

Finlandia’s Christopher Johnson, right, and Northern Michigan University’s Sveinn Karlsson run neck and neck for the ball during the second half of a men’s soccer exhibition game played at the NMU Soccer Field in Marquette during August 2016. (Journal file photo)

HANCOCK — Finlandia University announced Friday that it has canceled fall sports for the upcoming season.

The sports affected are football, volleyball and men’s and women’s soccer at the Hancock-based NCAA Division III institution.

The announcement, made by email, said that “after careful consideration, Finlandia Director of Athletics Curtis Wittenberg has announced the cancellation of competition for the university’s fall teams….”

On Thursday, Finlandia’s football league, the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, announced that it had postponed the conference’s fall schedule. Most of the conference’s schools are located in the Lower Peninsula, including Adrian, Alma, Olivet, Calvin, Hope and Kalamazoo colleges. The other football-playing MIAA school is Trine in Angola, Indiana.

Finlandia’s other fall sports teams belong to the Capital Athletic Conference, which FU joined in June after having been part of the American Collegiate Athletic Association. Just over a week ago, the CAC announced that championship tournaments in its league would be suspended this fall.

“I know this decision is incredibly disappointing for our Finlandia student-athletes, as I understand the value of competition, as well as the overall student-athlete experience,” Wittenberg said in a direct quotation as part of the announcement. “We have a responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of not only our student-athletes, but our campus community and the local community here in the Keweenaw. Given the daily changing landscape of D-III athletics with conferences announcing the cancellation of the fall sports season, engaging in outside athletic competition is not feasible at this time.”

The Finlandia announcement said that the university will continue to engage its student-athletes.

“While Finlandia’s fall teams will not compete in any games or competition for the fall season, the department will have opportunities for our student-athletes to remain engaged in meaningful athletic activity,” according to the email. “They include small group practices, skill development, strength and conditioning, and student-athlete well-being opportunities within the limitations stipulated by the NCAA throughout the 2020-21 academic year.”

FU added that student-athletes will not lose a year of athletic eligibility if their team doesn’t compete as according to rules of the NCAA, which has approved a waiver to grant a season of eligibility and two semesters back to student-athletes whose team competes in less than 50 percent of its season.

Winter sports schedules remain unchanged but will be evaluated as their respective start dates get nearer, the university added.

Thursday’s announcement from the MIAA said that its presidents’ council voted to hold off on all its fall sports and instead attempt to play them in the spring, according to the Detroit Free Press. However, Adrian, Calvin and Olivet are trying to pursue fall sports outside the conference this fall.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.


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