NCAA Announces Conferences Must Make Decision on Fall Sports by August 21

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 5, 2020

FILE - In this March 21, 2013, file photo, taken with a fisheye lens, the NCAA logo is displayed on the court during the NCAA college basketball tournament in Philadelphia. College basketball players who go undrafted by the NBA will be allowed to return to school and play as part of sweeping NCAA reforms in the wake of a corruption scandal, the NCAA announced Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

The NCAA Board of Governors announced Wednesday conferences must make a final decision about whether fall sports will be contested by Aug. 21.

"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," NCAA President Mark 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."

The NCAA stated a national championship won't be awarded if more than 50 percent of the teams eligible to compete for a title in that sport cancel their seasons because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Other guidelines include a hotline for student-athletes, parents and other individuals to report potential violations of COVID-19 safety requirements. Programs are not allowed to require students to sign liability waivers related to the pandemic, and there's a guarantee on scholarships, even if a player opts out of the 2020 season.

The announcement addresses some of the concerns raised by football student-athletes from the Pac-12 and Big Ten in The Players' Tribune this week.

"#WeAreUnited in our commitment to secure fair treatment for college athletes," Pac-12 players wrote. "Due to COVID-19 and other serious concerns, we will opt-out of Pac-12 fall camp and game participation unless the following demands are guaranteed in writing by our conference to protect and benefit both scholarship athletes and walk-ons."

The Big Ten players didn't mention a potential boycott but sought substantial discussions with the NCAA and the conference before play began.

"We have started a dialogue in good faith with the Big Ten and hope that the NCAA will follow suit," they said. "Given the short time frame, and with our season at stake, this conversation must happen now."

Along with the enhanced safety protocols, the NCAA announced any championships contested could feature reduced field sizes and the use of a "bubble" site similar to those being used by the NBA and NHL to resume their 2019-20 seasons.

"Our decisions place emphasis where it belongs—on the health and safety of college athletes," 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."

All decisions for fall sports must be made within federal, state and local COVID-19 guidelines.

The 2020 college football season has already underwent a massive overhaul, with all of the Power Five conferences announcing adjusted schedules that feature no more than a single nonconference game.