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Notre Dame Football

NCAA Releases Fall Sports Guidelines

August 5, 2020

The NCAA has provided some oversight with regard to COVID-19 as college athletic programs inch toward an uncertain return to play this fall, but the organization and its members still have some decisions to make in the coming weeks.

The NCAA Board of Governors announced guidance for schools and conferences to follow in order to officially begin fall sports while leaving it up to each division to decide whether or not to go through with championship tournaments and postseason play.

“The first and most important consideration is whether sports can be conducted safely for college athletes,” Michael V. Drake, chair of the board and University of California system president, said in a statement released.

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

Under today’s announcement, preseason, regular season and postseason activity must follow the NCAA Sport Science Institute’s Return To Sport Guidelines.

Schools will be required to follow all local, state and federal guidelines with regard to COVID-19 protocols.

All student-athletes will be given the opportunity to opt out of participation because of COVID-19 concerns without fear of losing their scholarships. Each division has until Aug. 14th to decide what athletes opting out or seasons being cut short because of COVID-19 will mean in terms of future eligibility and to make those athletes and families are aware of the impacts.

Schools cannot force a student-athlete to sign away any legal rights with regard to COVID-19 as a requirement to participate. Along with their exisiting insurance policies, schools will be required to cover any COVID-19 related medical expenses for student-athletes.

“Our decisions place emphasis where it belongs — on the health and safety of college athletes,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in the release. “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 NCAA will provide athletes and parents with a phone number and an email address where they can report any accusations of non-compliance.

Each division has until Aug. 21st to do decide how they will conduct championships and postseason play if they do so at all. The NCAA added it would only support postseason play with compliance of the guidelines, which include regular testing along with social distancing and mask policies while adding if half of the eligible teams in that sport cancel, there would be none for that division.

A decision as to whether to institute postseason play at a later date would depend on the current COVID-19 data along with other factors.

“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,” Emmert added. “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 also announced its COVID-19 Advisory Panel would continue “to closely monitor the pandemic and its impact on higher education and college sports and to provide any recommended changes to the requirements.”

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