SALT LAKE CITY — As conferences begin to release plans for the fall season of athletic activities, the NCAA Board of Governors released Wednesday “specific requirements” necessary before any sport can resume.
The NCAA, which has been in somewhat of a holding pattern since the novel coronavirus shut down athletic activities in spring, met this week to discuss the potential reopening of sports, but declined to rule on fall championships until a later date — no later than Aug. 21, to be exact.
Still, the governing body of college athletics outlined several key points to ensure the health and safety of all student-athletes looking to participate this fall, including a guarantee to all student-athletes that their scholarship will be honored should they opt out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns.
“Our decisions place emphasis where it belongs — on the health and safety of college athletes,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement. “Student-athletes should never feel pressured into playing their sport if they do not believe it is safe to do so. These policies ensure they can make thoughtful, informed decisions about playing this fall.”
Emmert went on to say that the NCAA’s mail goal is to “provide a safe environment” for student-athletes while providing an opportunity to compete for an NCAA championship. In football, specifically, the NCAA oversees the championship games and the many bowl games available to teams. The individual conferences oversee the actual season and how they’re made up, which is why each Power Five conference will have either a conference-only slate or a combination of conference games and one or more nonconference games.
“A decision based on the realities in each division will provide clarity for conferences and campuses as they determine how to safely begin the academic year and the return to sports,” Emmert said.
Already, Connecticut has eliminated its 2020 football season, which was announced Wednesday morning, and so has the Ivy League and Patriot League, with the hope of moving to spring for the two conferences.
Among the requirements made by the NCAA:
- All sports are required to follow the NCAA's return-to-sports guidelines, and must adopted any modifications in the future. The guidelines were established by the NCAA Sport Science Institute on guidance from the organization's COVID-19 Advisory Panel, which included medical, public health and epidemiology experts, according to the NCAA.
- The NCAA will operate a phone line and email system where student-athletes, parents and others can report on "alleged failures" in the guidelines set forth.
- Each athletic program is required to adhere to local and state guidelines related to COVID-19.
- Student-athletes "must be allowed" to opt out of their season due to COVID-19 concerns. If a athletes chooses to opt out, their scholarship "must be honored" by the institution.
- Institutions cannot require student-athletes to waive legal rights regarding COVID-19 "as a condition of athletics participation."
- Institutions must cover COVID-19 related medical expenses for student-athletes, which will work in conjunction with the program's existing insurance.
- If 50% or more of the eligible teams in a sport cancel their fall season, the NCAA will not hold an NCAA championship for that sport in that division.
- If a fall sport championship is postponed, the NCAA will determine whether to move forward with the championship at a later day based upon "the scientific data available at the time regarding COVID-19."