NCAA leaving decision about fall sports up to individual divisions

The NCAA announced Wednesday it is leaving the decision about fall sports seasons and championships in 2020 up to each individual division.
The NCAA announced Wednesday it is leaving the decision about fall sports seasons and championships in 2020 up to each individual division.(Valley news Live)
Published: Aug. 5, 2020 at 1:45 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The NCAA announced Wednesday it is leaving the decision about fall sports seasons and championships in 2020 up to each individual division.

In a statement the organization says:

“The NCAA Board of Governors has directed schools and conferences to meet specific requirements if they are to conduct NCAA fall sports during the preseason, regular season and postseason. Further, each division is directed to determine its ability to meet those requirements to conduct fall championships.

The board expressed serious concerns about the continuing high levels of COVID-19 infection in many parts of the nation. 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.”

For a fall season and championship to held in a sport, teams and conferences must abide by the following guidelines released by the NCAA Wednesday:

  • 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.

The divisions must determine by Aug. 21 whether their respective fall sports seasons and NCAA championships should occur this year. All three divisions must follow their governance processes in making decisions.

James Madison University has previously said it plans to pursue a fall football schedule in 2020 if the FCS Playoffs are held. Other JMU fall sports programs are also preparing for a season as long as their respective sports have a championship in the fall.

JMU released the following statement Wednesday evening:

“In line with updated communication released by the NCAA Board of Governors, James Madison Athletics continues preparation for its 2020-21 year on schedule. The department is committed to closely following medical and safety procedures, including the NCAA’s return-to-sport guidelines. If at any time it is determined that the department is unable to maintain a safe environment, athletics activities will be halted. As communicated by the NCAA, a decision on Fall sport championships will occur no later than August 21. As long as JMU can maintain safety protocols on our campus, decisions about sport seasons will continue to align with NCAA Championship calendars.”

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