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.
The requirements 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.
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.
“The first and most important consideration is whether sports can be conducted safely for college athletes,” said Michael V. Drake, chair of the board and University of California system president. “Each division must examine whether it has the resources available to take the required precautions given the spread of COVID-19.”
The board based its requirements on guidance from the NCAA’s COVID-19 Advisory Panel, established in March and comprising leading medical, public health and epidemiology experts. The panel will continue to closely monitor the pandemic and its impact on higher education and college sports and to provide any recommended changes to the requirements.
“Our decisions place emphasis where it belongs — on the health and safety of college athletes,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said. “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 also emphasized the need for each division to conduct a careful evaluation of the viability of fall championships. He acknowledged that each division is unique.
“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,” Emmert said. “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.”