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Northern Lights Wary of COVID After-Effects

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Northern Lights Wary of COVID After-Effects

North Dakota State vs Minnesota-Duluth from 2017. These two should face off once again this fall.

Questions remain about collegiate conferences and how their fall season looks as they come back from COVID shutdowns, and for some conferences, the questions can't be answered until the season starts.

Allegheny College Conference Looks to Fall 2021

Great Lakes Conference Sets Fall Schedule

Southern Conference D2, Small College Schedules Set

NEWCRC Men's Schedules Ready to Go 

SCRC D1A, D2 Schedules Set

For the Northern Lights in Minnesota, the questions remain. There will be no schedule set before the fall starts. Instead, teams will be given some time to recruit, and then everyone will meet in one venue for an All-Minnesota tournament.

When they show up at this tournament, any team with 17 players will be tracked into 15s, and will get a 15-a-side season scheduled for them. The teams that don't have 17 players will be given an extra week to bolster their numbers. If they are able to do that they are also scheduled into a 15-a-side season.

Teams that can't recruit enough players will be put into a 10-a-side schedule or a 7-a-side schedule.

Minnesota Rugby Union President Greg White said the union and teams considered allowing teams to merge, but rejected the idea.

"First of all, that's not what we want; we want college teams playing college teams," said White. "The other thing is that this takes away the incentive to recruit and boost your numbers. If you've got seven players and you merge with another team then you think: 'OK, we've got seven, and we're fine.' That's not going to help grow numbers."

What the tracking plan will do is make sure that even teams struggling to get numbers will be able to play rugby, and we won't be flooded with annoying forfeits. All forfeits do, in the end, is tell a team it's OK not to have enough players.

It's likely that we will see some established programs have no trouble reaching the 17-player threshold. North Dakota State, St. Thomas, St. John's, and Moorhead are expected to have sufficient roster size. Also expected to meet that threshold is Minnesota-Duluth, which was the perennial champion in the Minnesota before moving to the Great Midwest. Now UMD is back in the Northern Lights, and reportedly made the move in part because of how the conference is addressing this season.

So ... we will see a Northern Lights Conference schedule for both D2 and Small College teams, but not now, and not in a format that necessarily looks how it looked in, say, 2018.