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Jeff Kolpack, Published April 10 2013

Task force ponders later start to college softball season

FARGO – The North Dakota State softball team is 32 games into its season without a home opener in sight. That’s life in a northern climate this season.

The Bison are not alone, and if the University of Nebraska head coach Rhonda Revelle has her way, help would be on the way. The president of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association and a NFCA Hall of Fame member said Wednesday a task force to study moving the season back will be put together soon.

“This has been a battle cry my whole entire career,” she said. “We’re in a northern climate that takes their softball very seriously.”

Teams like NDSU and Nebraska are not alone this year, as the inclement weather has affected a large chunk of programs.

The Bison, for instance, have already been snowed out of series’ at Missouri-Kansas City and Nebraska-Omaha. With so many schools affected, Bison head coach Darren Mueller said he senses a movement among his peers to try and address starting the season at a later date.

Revelle said the task force, the makeup which has yet to be determined, will study factors like the financial implications and the television package. ESPN is the home to the NCAA Women’s College World Series.

It would mean schools would keep their athletes on campus longer after school is out, which costs money. But Mueller also said it would be no different from football, volleyball or soccer, which brings their athletes in before school begins – in some cases more than a month before the first day of class.

“And academically it would be better for us,” Mueller said. “We wouldn’t miss as much school.”

Revelle said she can’t imagine how many games have been lost or postponed this season. She also questioned how many sports do the bulk of their practicing in an environment different from the game field. NDSU, for instance, works out in Bentson-Bunker Fieldhouse.

“And yet northern schools perennially put together great programs with North Dakota State being one of them,” Revelle said. “Even if we move it back a week to 10 days, in this part of the country, a week or 10 days makes a lot of difference.”

Well, most seasons anyway. Mueller could only guess it will take a couple of weeks for his field to dry out. Same with NDSU baseball coach Tod Brown, who said he’s still targeting the April 19 Summit League series against Western Illinois.

“But to be honest, it’s not looking good,” he said.

Brown said NDSU has the field at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., on reserve for that weekend. The snow has been cleared from NDSU’s Newman Outdoor Field, but there is still the issue of dealing with the frost when it comes out of the ground.

It’s been that kind of year everywhere.

“We went to Arkansas and froze,” Brown said. “We went to Missouri and froze. We went to Tennessee and froze.”

NDSU plays at Oakland (Mich.) on Friday and at Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne on Sunday.

“In Oakland, there’s a 100 percent chance of rain Monday through Friday,” he said.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia