Fall sports have been given a road map to a return.
The NCAA Board of Governors released Wednesday a list of requirements for schools and conferences to conduct fall sports, as well as implemented an Aug. 21 deadline for divisions to decide whether or not play can begin. The requirements include standardized COVID-19 safety guidelines, eligibility and scholarship protection, and championship planning.
Regardless of the sport, the NCAA said postseason tournaments may reduce the number of competitors, use predetermined sites or congregate teams in a single location. If 50% or more of eligible teams call off their fall seasons, there won’t be a championship in that sport, but the NCAA left the door open for championships and tournaments to be postponed in accordance with scientific data relating to COVID-19.
Several of the announced plans directly address the demands raised by the group of Pac-12 football players who threatened to boycott the season. Member schools will have to cover coronavirus-related medical expenses, scholarships must be honored for players who elect to opt out of fall seasons because of COVID-19 concerns and players are invited to report failures to follow health guidelines to a new NCAA phone number and email.
“The first and most important consideration is whether sports can be conducted safely for college athletes,” said Michael Drake, chair of the board and University of California president, in the NCAA’s statement. “Each division must examine whether it has the resources available to take the required precautions given the spread of COVID-19.”
Spring sport athletes who had their seasons canceled because of COVID-19 were granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA in March, and something similar could be in store for some fall sport athletes as well.
The NCAA designated Aug. 14 as a deadline for divisions to determine eligibility accommodations for student-athletes who either opt out or have their seasons canceled. All UCLA teams are Division I, meaning the fate of the Bruins’ eligibility lies in the hands of the Division I Council.
The new regulations are in addition to the smaller ones the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel announced Thursday, which made it possible for student-athletes to replace their names with social justice messages on their jerseys, reduced the number of coin-toss football captains to one per team, extended spitting suspensions in soccer and more. The NCAA has not announced any plans to regulate the number of fans in the stands at any athletic events, however.
The Pac-12 is set to begin conference-only competition Sept. 26 for football, while schedules for men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and cross country have yet to be finalized.