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NCAA Outlines Fall Championship Guidelines, Defers Final Decision To Divisions

The NCAA Board of Governors announced Wednesday morning final decisions on fall championships should be made by each individual division.

All three divisions are instructed to make a final ruling on fall sports and NCAA championships by Friday, August 21.

Final decisions are to be guided by each division’s ability to meet specific guidelines outlined by the board.

“The board expressed serious concerns about the continuing high levels of COVID-19 infection in many parts of the nation,” the NCAA said in a press release. “The board has determined that it will only support moving forward with fall championships and other postseason play if strict conditions are applied and adhered to.”

The NCAA included 11 specific guidelines for each school, conference, and division to adhere to. They include:

  • All fall sports activity (preseason, regular season and postseason) must follow the recently released return-to-sport guidelines from the NCAA Sport Science Institute for all athletic activity. As the guidelines change based on the ever-changing pandemic, schools must follow any future modifications.
  • The NCAA will establish a phone number and email to allow college athletes, parents or others to report alleged failures. The Association will notify school and conference administrators, who will be expected to take immediate action.
  • All member schools must adhere to federal, state and local guidelines related to COVID-19. Further, the conduct of NCAA championships must be in line with federal, state and local guidelines.
  • All student-athletes must be allowed to opt out of participation due to concerns about contracting COVID-19. If a college athlete chooses to opt out, that individual’s athletics scholarship commitment must be honored by the college or university.
  • Each division must determine no later than Aug. 14 the eligibility accommodations that must be made for student-athletes who opt out of participating this fall or for those whose seasons are canceled or cut short due to COVID-19. College athletes and their families must know what their eligibility status will be before beginning the fall season.
  • Member schools may not require student-athletes to waive their legal rights regarding COVID-19 as a condition of athletics participation. 
  • Member schools, in conjunction with existing insurance standards, must cover COVID-19 related medical expenses for student-athletes to prevent out-of-pocket expenses for college athletes and their families.
  • Any NCAA fall championship or other postseason contests must be conducted within enhanced safety protocols for student-athletes and essential athletics personnel. These safety enhancements will include regular testing, separation of college athletes and essential personnel from all other nonessential personnel, and physical distancing and masking policies during all aspects of noncompetition. 
  • NCAA championships may use reduced bracketing, a reduced number of competitors, predetermined sites and, where appropriate, single sites to limit exposure to COVID-19.
  • If 50% or more of eligible teams in a particular sport in a division cancel their fall season, there will be no fall NCAA championship in that sport in that division.
  • If fall sports championships are postponed in any division, a decision to conduct that championship at a later date will be based upon the scientific data available at that time regarding COVID-19, along with other considerations.

Each division should determine its ability to meet the requirements outlined by the board and examine if it has the necessary resources to uphold these guidelines throughout the season.

“First and foremost, we need to make sure we provide a safe environment for college athletes to compete for an opportunity to play in NCAA championships,” President Mark Emmert explained. “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.”

The NCAA also announced all student-athletes must be allowed to opt out of the upcoming season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Should this occur, universities must continue honoring scholarships.

The organization will also establish a phone line allowing students, coaches, and staff members to reported alleged coronavirus protocol non-compliances on campus.

The Big Ten released its conference-only fall schedule Wednesday morning. The conference’s decision to continue with the football season could be overruled if Division I could not meet the guidelines outlined by the NCAA.

Additionally, the Big Ten released its own health guidelines on Wednesday along with the season schedule. More than 1,000 conference players also penned a letter in The Players’ Tribune with “common sense” demands for the season, including increased protections and precautions.

While many Division II and III teams have suspended fall sports, UConn is the only Division I FBS program to officially cancel its fall football season.

Although no Penn State football player has officially opted out of the season, Micah Parsons is reportedly set to forgo the season and declare for the 2021 NFL Draft.

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About the Author

Ryan Parsons

Ryan is a junior business major from Bucks County and is Onward State's social media manager. He writes about a lot of things. He's a huge Philly sports fan, back to back to back failed entrepreneur, and he appeared on the Rachel Ray Show at the age of 5. If you want to gain absolutely nothing, you can follow him on twitter @rjparsons9. Any "serious" inquiries or death threats can be sent to [email protected]

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