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NCAA Sets New Season Rules, But Leaves Final Call Up to Each Division

It’s official.

The NCAA Board of Governors has directed schools and conferences to meet specific requirements if they want to have NCAA fall sports during the preseason, regular season and postseason.

In addition, each division has been directed to determine its own ability to meet those requirements before conducting fall championships.

The board remains very concerned about the continuing high levels of coronavirus infection in some parts of the country.

With that in mind, the new requirements state:

-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. Schools must also follow any future changes to the rules.

-The NCAA will establish a phone number and email to allow college athletes, parents or others to report alleged failures. The Association will then 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 at all times.

-All student-athletes must be allowed to opt out of participation due to concerns about contracting COVID-19. If a college athlete chooses that option, 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 cancelled or cut short due to COVID-19.

-Member schools may not require student-athletes to waive their legal rights regarding COVID-19 as a condition of athletics participation.

-Member schools 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. That includes: regular testing, separation of college athletes and essential personnel from all other nonessential personnel, and physical distancing and masking policies during all aspects of non-competition.

-NCAA championships may use reduced bracketing, a reduced number of competitors, predetermined sites and, where appropriate, single sites in order 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.

The divisions must determine by Aug. 21 whether their fall sports seasons and NCAA championships should occur this year.

“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.

He went on to say, “Each division must examine whether it has the resources available to take the required precautions given the spread of COVID-19.”

“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.”

The requirements come as the Big Ten conference announces that its season will start Sept 5.

There is hope, after all.