While the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges are currently planning to have an October football season, another fall sport in the junior college ranks will move its season to the spring.

In mid-July, the National Junior College Athletic Association Board of Regents voted to move most of its fall sports to the spring amid the coronavirus pandemic. In response, the MACC presidents voted a week ago to play a six-game divisional schedule in football, followed by a playoff, beginning Oct. 1. The association agreed to go along with the NJCAA’s plan to move soccer to the spring, however, which is a major adjustment for both Meridian Community College and East Central Community College, as both schools offer men’s and women’s soccer.

“The NJCAA gave us an opportunity to have a season,” ECCC women’s soccer coach Ryan Joiner said. “It’s going to be different for sure because of how regimented I am in what I do, but we’ll play the hand we’re dealt and be grateful that we have an opportunity to play. It’ll be tough, but we’re all being dealt the same hand, so we’ll make the best of it.”

MCC women’s soccer coach Mike Smith said there are aspects to delaying the season he likes, such as giving the players more time to bond.

“Usually we report around Aug. 1, and our first game is usually around the 16th, so we never have a lot of time to get to know each other,” Smith said. “We just go right into playing. One good thing is that we’ll get to practice in the fall for 60 days and get to go into the weight room and get into better shape. Also, it’s not going to be as hot.”

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Smith isn’t as fond of other changes, however.

“They shrunk our season from 18 to 14 regular season games, and they gave us only six weeks to play those games,” Smith explained. “That’s a lot of games in a little amount of time, and it rains a lot in the spring, so it could be messy.”

A change in the season could potentially affect teams’ recruiting plans as well, Joiner said.

“We do a lot of visits in the summer and always ask recruits to come back and watch us play in the fall and see the campus,” Joiner said. “It’s difficult that they won’t be able to do that. With signing day being Nov. 1, we’ll lock up most of our class in the next two months, but with a spring season it’ll help us out with the class of 2022. There are so many unexpected things and unknowns to come, but recruiting for the 2021 season will be normal other than not having kids on campus to see us play.”

Since high school soccer is played in the winter, Smith said he’s hopeful a spring season won’t affect his ability to scout local and statewide talent while the high schools are playing.

“Thankfully I’ve been doing a lot of recruiting right now, and a lot of the kids (I’m recruiting) are from Lauderdale County, so I’ve seen them play many times and know them well,” Smith said. “There are some kids not from Lauderdale County that I’m trying to get, so I’m going to have to look at my schedule and their schedules.”

One of the concerns about moving football to the spring was the idea of certain players graduating in December and not being available for a potential spring season. MCC men’s coach Sam Wilson said that’s a concern for soccer, but he doesn’t think it will be a major problem.

“I know I’m going to have two to three guys move on after this semester due to four-year commitments,” Wilson said. “I don’t think soccer will be as much (affected) as football, but some of the better players might leave early to go to four-year programs.”

Trying to get his players’ recruiting clips out to four-year coaches might be more challenging with them playing a real season almost half a year later than usual, Wilson added.

“We try to tape as much as we can, obviously with practices and hopefully some scrimmage games this fall,” Wilson said. “It will definitely affect kids having a short spring season and getting film out. There will definitely be a lot tighter window to find those guys.”

Wilson said he can’t fault the NJCAA for doing what it thought would be best from a health standpoint.

“I think when you’re erring on the side of caution, it was the right move,” Wilson said. “As much as I wanted to play and as much as everyone wanted to play, if you’re trying to make the best decision on people’s health, the smart play was moving it to the spring.”

Ultimately, Smith said he understands the decision to move the season and hopes everyone will have a better handle on COVID-19 when soccer rolls around.

“I do think it’s the right move because of the unknown right now,” Smith said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

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