Mark Emmert: NCAA Won't Mandate Uniform Return to College Sports Amid Pandemic

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMay 13, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - APRIL 04: President of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Mark Emmert speaks to the media ahead of the Men's Final Four at U.S. Bank Stadium on April 04, 2019 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images)
Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images

NCAA President Mark Emmert told ESPN's Heather Dinich that the organization will not mandate a uniform return for collegiate athletics amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Normally there's an agreed-upon start date for every sport, every season, but under these circumstances, now that's all been derailed by the pandemic. It won't be the conferences that can do that, either. It will be the local and state health officials that say whether or not you can open and play football with fans.

"We already saw the Oregon governor offering her views on what's likely to happen in September. The Pac-12 can say, 'Gee, we'd all like to open up on this date,' but whether or not you can is going to be ultimately up to the state and local health officials and the campus itself making a decision whether or not they want to go forward."

States vary from shutdowns to phased reopenings at this juncture, per the New York Times.

Also, not all schools may be able to open their doors for in-person classes in the fall semester. The California State University system announced Tuesday that it will hold most of its classes online, for example.

Furthermore, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned against schools reopening in the fall in a message to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (h/t Lauren Camera of U.S. News and World Report) on Tuesday.

As Dinich noted, there is support for a uniform start, including from Washington football coach Jimmy Lake:

"I'm of the opinion it would be great if the NCAA made a blanket rule for the whole nation of when we would start, and I understand some states may be less hit by this than most. And I'm sure there's going to be some different opinions on this. In my opinion, I believe the NCAA should step in and say, 'OK, here's the date when everybody can start.'"

That sentiment had the backing of fellow Pac-12 coaches in Colorado's Karl Dorrell and Utah's Kyle Whittingham.

However, Emmert deferred.

"These are localized decisions," Emmert said. "Local campuses have to decide: Are we opening up, and are we bringing students back to play sports? The NCAA doesn't mandate that, nor should it. The schools themselves have to make those choices."

The NCAA canceled its remaining winter and spring championships March 12. No decision has been made regarding fall sports.