The NCAA on Wednesday directed each division to make its own decision on fall sport championships but said it has “serious concerns” about the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and will support fall events if “strict conditions” of health and safety are followed.
The NCAA also made clear that all student-athletes must be allowed to opt out of participation in fall sports if they are worried about their health and safety and that colleges and universities must honor the athletes’ scholarship commitments.
“The first and most important consideration is whether sports can be conducted safely for college athletes,” said Dr. Michael V. Drake, chair of the NCAA board and University of California system president, in a statement. “Each division must examine whether it has the resources available to take the required precautions given the spread of COVID-19.”
After the NCAA’s announcement, Division II and Division III announced they are canceling sporting championships in the fall.
The NCAA, meanwhile, laid out specific requirements for the conduct of fall sports. It said all athletic activity must follow return-to-sport guidelines and any future modifications to them from the NCAA Sport Science Institute. It will establish a dedicated phone number and email address for college athletes, parents or others to report alleged failure to follow the health and safety guidelines.
The NCAA also said 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, the NCAA added.
“Our decisions place emphasis where it belongs — on the health and safety of college athletes,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in the statement. “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.”