Bob Jones University sports made the jump to Division III provisional status in the National College Athletic Association despite the challenges of the pandemic.
The NCAA Division III provisional status gives BJU a unique opportunity as the only Division III school in the state of South Carolina. Jonny Gamet, the director of sports information, said, “BJU opens the door for South Carolina for Division III sports and academics.”
“There are a lot of North Carolina and Georgia Division III schools in the surrounding region, but we feel like that is why the NCAA was excited about our application,” Gamet said. “Our hope is that we can get more schools from South Carolina.”
Even though BJU has been accepted as a Division III school, the University is in a three-year provisional status period, which means the NCAA is observing and advising in BJU’s transition to Division III.
“During the provisional years we won’t be able to play in the Division III postseason, which is one of the drawbacks of the provisional period—but that’s also another reason why we wanted to maintain our affiliation with the NCCAA so that our student-athletes can still have postseason opportunities,” Gamet said.
This concept is called dual affiliation. With the NCCAA status still active, the Bruins can play in the NCCAA postseason and compete for championships.
With the pandemic taking its full form over the summer and BJU moving to NCAA Division III provisional status, student-athletes were met with new challenges. One of those challenges were gyms, soccer fields and even tracks being shut down for the summer.
Kayle Stevenson, a sophomore on the women’s soccer team, said one of the biggest challenges was that her city either took down every soccer goal and put them away or locked up the goals together. “There was even a time they shut down public fields and gyms, so I had to do bodyweight workouts at home and get touches on the ball in my driveway or yard until I could get back into the gym and field,” Stevenson said.
COVID-19 affected players’ ability to get better over the offseason and delayed preseason training for some Bruins sports teams. Preseason is a key opportunity for teams to reinforce details and gain team chemistry with their new and old teammates.
Bruins teams are also recommended to follow protocols to protect them against the virus. During the pandemic, the NCAA has labeled sports in different categories: low risk, medium risk and high risk. Players of low-risk sports such as golf will not be tested for COVID-19 unless a player shows symptoms. In medium risk sports such as cross country and baseball, players will be tested every 3 weeks for COVID-19. In high-risk sports such as volleyball, soccer and basketball, players will be tested every week.
Coaches are enforcing physical distancing as much as possible, including during warm-up times and drills. These tests and physical distancing protocols are important to keep student-athletes and the campus safe from COVID-19.