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August 8, 2020

7/8/2020 12:26:00 PM
Hanover College working to welcome back athletes with thoughful, comprehensive plan
Johnathon Kipper

In the Class of 2020, Jennings County High School had at least 10 graduates who plan to continue their athletic careers in college. A few of the schools they will be attending include Purdue University-Fort Wayne, Franklin College and Hanover College.

Hanover College, just to the south in Jefferson County, is no stranger to our county. Four of the college's athletic programs - football, women's basketball, volleyball, and track & field, will have a Jennings County High School graduate on the roster this fall.

As of right now, fall sports at the college level are being planned to be played this coming semester. The big question surrounding them, however, is how they will be played.

Lake Lambert, President of Hanover College since 2015, says that in planning for the upcoming semester for academics and sports, the college has been trying to plan for almost anything.

"We are making plans to be back in the fall," said Lambert. "But we are also making contingency plans if we are not able to."

Some of the challenges in figuring out college athletics for the fall is the differences between the divisions in the NCAA and the school's sizes.

One key factor is how athletics actually affects the student body. At Hanover, nearly half of their 1,100 students play an NCAA sport.

"In a big college, sports are something most of the students watch," Lambert said. "At Hanover, it is what most of the students play."

Another impact of the virus on the NCAA's Division I level has been the financial troubles it has caused. Some major universities, including Cincinnati, Connecticut, and Boise State, have all had to eliminate some athletic programs. This is something not expected on the Division III level, where Hanover plays.

"None of our sports programs are revenue producing," said Athletic Director Lynn Hall. "We only charge admission for basketball, football, and some volleyball. We will not be losing millions of dollars and cutting sports."

Hall, who has been athletics director since 1998, also said that a plan is in the works on how athletes and athletics will return to campus. They will be using the NCAA's phased-in approach to get started.

"They will have their educational pieces, concussion forms, and other screenings done on campus," said Hall. "Once they are here and we see they are not symptomatic, we can start to work with small groups. After that, we can move up to working with bigger groups."

By Phase II of their plan, all athletic programs would be able to practice with their entire rosters except for football, who will still have a limit on the number of people allowed to practice at once. The plan will also be coordinated the college's Student Life plan for moving in and a dining plan to make sure all run smoothly.

Even at this time, there are still many "what ifs" involving the college sports season.

Both Lambert and Hall have been on regular Zoom calls with other presidents and athletic directors in their conference (the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference or HCAC) on how schools will return in the fall and what schedules could look like for the various teams.

Right now, sports like volleyball that could have played against three or more teams at a single event, would have to play only head-to-head competitions. There will also likely be no trips involving an overnight stay off campus, with the exception of conference tournaments.

It has been talked about that some sports play a conference-only schedule or play only teams in the local area. For Hanover, the HCAC is made up of 10 teams in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. Teams outside of the conference in those states could be utilized to make up for teams having to be dropped for travel.

Scheduling will also affect the academic side. Hanover, which has generally started their fall semester on Labor Day, will push up their opening to August 24, with hopes of being finished on campus by Thanksgiving. This would allow for finals and semester projects to be turned in online afterwards, similar to what most universities and colleges plan to do this fall.

Even with all the challenges and uncertainty in place for colleges starting back up next month, Lambert thinks that it will be easier for their campus being in a smaller community.

"Our community is a little more tight knit, so I am hopeful that it will be easier to talk to students about the choices and precautions they need to make," he said. "It takes a certain type of community to help folks understand that it is not about me, but it is about others. I think that is the type of community that we try to foster here."

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