OSU cross country coach Dave Smith looking for ways to have a fall season without an NCAA championship
STILLWATER — An NCAA championship cross country meet won’t be run on Oklahoma State’s course Nov. 21.
But a race will be run there that day. Just how big a race it is, that’s yet to be known.
With programs and conferences canceling fall sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA called off all non-football fall championships on Thursday.
But by Friday morning when he sat down for a Zoom call with reporters, Oklahoma State cross country coach Dave Smith had already been contacted by several programs in the Southeastern and Atlantic Coast conferences about racing on the OSU course in late November.
“Just in the 24 hours since we heard this announcement, there’s been a lot of discussion and interest in, could we host?” Smith said. “The coaches I’ve spoken to feel the way I do. If we can do this and have some kind of competitive opportunity for our student-athletes without burning their eligibility, we want to do it.”
The eligibility issue remains the primary concern. There has been talk about the NCAA holding a winter/spring cross country season, and that’s where running a fall race raises questions.
Would it count against a runner’s overall race limit for the season? Would it nix the final season for a fifth-year senior?
There are not yet any answers for a sport fractured by the pandemic.
“For our athletes, like all the sports, this is really disappointing to them,” Smith said. “They worked hard all summer long to get ready for the season. They already missed their track season. I think that was really hard for a lot of them to process and deal with.
“They’re going through the last six months without being able to do what they love to do.”
Since the time four years ago when OSU was awarded this year’s championship, Smith and his program have been working to manicure the race course to be an ideal track for the NCAA’s biggest meet.
And Smith was excited to show it off.
“This sounds hyperbolic, but I think it’s true. I think we have the best cross country course in the entire world,” Smith said. “Not the NCAA, not the U.S., but the entire world. We’ve certainly put more money into it, it’s got more value than any course in the world. And being a dedicated cross country course that’s maintained the way it is, and the way the running surface is, it’s unbelievable.
“I think I and our administration really want to show that off. We were going to be live on ESPN this year.”
Because the course is strictly dedicated to cross country, it would be available to host a championship in March, if the opportunity arises.
And Smith is hopeful that the course will be granted another NCAA championship in the future. OSU submitted bids for each season in the next cycle of championships site selection, from 2022-25.
But Smith and his runners were looking forward to Nov. 21.
“I’ve told them we are going to run and 10,000-meter race for the men and a 6,000-meter race for the women on our home course on Nov. 21, whether it’s just us, or us and a couple other schools in a scrimmage, or some limited season that does not burn eligibility,” Smith said.
“We’re going to have some competitive opportunity on that date, and hopefully some others to go along with it.”