NCAA D1 Council Approves Voluntary Football Activities
The NCAA Division I Council has approved a voluntary return to activities for football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball on June 1, so long as all local, state and federal regulations are followed. The Council met Wednesday to consider those proposals.
The decision is not a mandate, and the final choice to reopen facilities for use by student-athletes will be made by individual schools, in conjunction with local governments as well as conference officials.
“The Council members emphasized the importance of protecting student-athlete health and safety as schools make decisions about opening facilities for voluntary activities,” the NCAA said in a release. “The Council members also stated that access to facilities should be provided in compliance with applicable state and local regulations regarding the use of such facilities, group size restrictions and any other limits.
“Voluntary on-campus athletics activity must be initiated by the student-athlete. Coaches may not be present unless a sport-specific safety exception allows it, and activity cannot be directed by a coach or reported back to a coach.”
As noted here last week, one of the key factors in reopening college football, or any athletics activity, is the availability of massive and rapid testing. While the NCAA is not expected to lay down any rules in that regard — most of that body’s action is and will continue to be couched in terms of guidelines and recommendations — it’s clear that every school has to have a plan in place for testing and responding when positive tests are encountered.
WVU head football coach Neal Brown noted recently that he expects a stairstepped approach when the return begins, with groups of players reporting at intervals rather than a total, all-at-once influx.
Restart dates for other fall sports are expected to be voted on within the next 1-2 weeks.
The waiver to allow eight hours per week of virtual activities will remain in place. However, in-person recruiting visits, both on- and off-campus, are expected to remain on the banned list.
Some schools, such as Ohio State and San Diego State, have indicated they will begin welcoming student-athletes back to campus during the first week of June. Conferences, including the Big 12, SEC and Big Ten, are scheduling decisions to set reopening dates as a whole.
WVU, like many schools, has been consulting with the Duke Infection Control Outreach Network (DICON) for information and assistance on best practices in preventing potential infections and minimizing outbreaks when positive tests are encountered.
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With so much on its plate with response to the pandemic and name, image and likeness issues, the Council also approved a limited moratorium on governance and other legislative proposals brought by conference members for the 2020-21 cycle. Transfer eligibility, while tabled for the current year, can also be brought up again prior to the 2021-22 season.
In addition, conferences may submit legislative concepts that are essential to the operation of the division, related to significant membership priorities or advance the NCAA Division I Board of Directors’ strategic areas of emphasis, including its modernization agenda. The Council will determine whether concepts meet the required parameters. The moratorium is effective immediately.
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In a somewhat related development, several universities, such as Notre Dame, Syracuse and Northwestern, have announced plans to restart fall semesters early and/or eliminate fall breaks. This will allow the schools to end semesters early, in some cases by the end of November, in order to promote more social distancing in advance of a predicted second wave of COVID-19 virus transmission during winter months.
Those moves have sparked speculation in some quarters that the NCAA might try to end competition seasons earlier, as some members will not be in school during some fall championship events. However, that has never stopped football schools from participating in bowl games or basketball teams in holiday tournaments during semester breaks.