The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference decided to delay the start of its fall sports season due to health concerns from COVID-19, the conference's board of directors voted unanimously Monday, July 27.

It marks the second time the NSIC has had to adjust fall sports schedules this summer.

"It was the right decision," said Minnesota State Moorhead athletic director Doug Peters. "I think it gives us the best chance to complete our fall sports seasons when you take into consideration everything that's going on."

Football, golf and men’s and women’s cross country will be allowed to have their first practices Sept. 2, with the first competition date scheduled for Sept. 26. Volleyball and women's soccer will be allowed their first practices Sept. 8 with the first competition date slated for Friday, Oct. 2.

The NSIC, an NCAA Division II league, has 16 members with schools in five different states.

“It was extremely difficult because we’re dealing with five states, publics and privates (schools), and I’m proud that our league came together and really did the hard work to figure out what the best way to do this was," Peters said.

The NSIC posted updated schedules for football, volleyball and soccer on its website at: NorthernSun.org/2020FallSchedules. The league football season has been trimmed to eight games, the volleyball schedule has been reduced to 15 matches, and the women's soccer season is 11 games.

“This was a challenging decision for our membership to make,” NSIC commissioner Erin Lind said in a release. “For the last several months, our membership has been working tirelessly to prepare for the fall sports season, including developing the resumption of athletic principles, revamping schedules and creating competition disruption plans. At this time, we remain optimistic that we can safely conduct a fall sports season and moving the start date of competition will give us the best opportunity to give our student-athletes the experience they deserve.”

Division II has 23 conferences with 10 having already postponed fall competition, nine announcing a delayed season start and four have yet to make an announcement on fall seasons, according to Peters.

The NSIC first altered its 2020 fall sports season in late May after the NCAA Division II Presidents Council decided to reduce the minimum and maximum numbers of contests required for sports sponsorship.

For example, the football regular-season maximum went from 11 to 10 games, which the NSIC had scheduled the max of 10 until Monday's decision. Now, the conference is starting the football regular season a couple weeks later and playing eight contests.

The Dragons are scheduled to start their football season Sept. 26 against Upper Iowa at Scheels Field and Alex Nemzek Stadium. MSUM is slated to start its volleyball season Oct. 2 against Southwest Minnesota State at Nemzek Fieldhouse. The Dragons women's soccer team hosts Minnesota State-Mankato on Oct. 2 at Nemzek Soccer field to start its regular season.

Peters said delaying the start of fall sports seasons allows the conference and member schools more time to adjust to an ever-changing COVID-19 landscape.

“We’re heading into uncharted territory and we want to give ourselves the best possible chance to be able to compete,” Peters said.