NCAA to have ‘update’ on fall sports championships Wednesday, Mark Emmert says

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The NCAA board of governors on Tuesday held off making any major decisions about its Division I fall championships in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, instead pushing “an update” to Wednesday, according to a statement on Twitter from NCAA president Mark Emmert.

The board, which mainly comprises university presidents representing all three divisions, has the authority to cancel or postpone NCAA fall championships for sports such as soccer, women’s volleyball and FCS football. It’s something the board has been considering for weeks but has recently had more serious discussions about.

“The board of governors and I today continued our discussion about the NCAA’s ability to proceed with our 22 fall championships in light of the COVID-19 trend lines,” Emmert stated following a meeting that lasted the entire afternoon. “In order to ensure the health and well-being of college athletes, we have to consider all the implications when determining our next steps, and we plan to provide an update to our membership and the public tomorrow.”

The members of the Football Oversight Committee have maintained the stance that the NCAA’s board wait longer to make any significant decisions about fall championships because of the profound impact it could have on all sports, including at the highest level — in college football. While a potential cancellation of NCAA fall sports championships doesn’t directly impact the College Football Playoff or the FBS college football season, decision-makers across the sport are concerned about the trickle-down effect the decision would ultimately have on big-time college football.

Multiple FBS conference commissioners and athletic directors have voiced strong opposition to canceling championships at this point in the pandemic.

Last Tuesday, Emmert told ESPN he was still hopeful the November championships would be played, but if they are canceled, he said it doesn’t mean that the regular seasons couldn’t still happen.

“They could play for a conference championship if they could make it safe,” he said. “The determination of our championships would be about whether or not we could bring together large groups of students in these kinds of environments and do it safely. That’s the decision point.

“An individual contest — a football game, a basketball game — that’s quite different. In the case of a bowl game or the CFP, you’re talking about a championship game. Can you create a bubble with enough lead time to have two teams play each other safely? The answer to that may be yes. The FCS is a round-robin championship with 20 teams participating and a full-on championship event. That’s a very different and much more challenging environment than adding one or two more games to a season with a lot of space in between.”

Normally, the NCAA fall championships include play-in rounds that occur on campuses, but the NCAA decided recently to use predetermined sites this year to control the environment and create something like a “bubble” at those sites.

“If we’re going to do that, which is what we have to do, we have to get going on the logistics of that way ahead of time,” Emmert said last week. “Right now, we haven’t identified those sites. We have to identify them, choose the facilities, places to stay, and that needs to begin fairly soon. We’ve got a matter of weeks, but not beyond that, within which we can make those determinations.”

Emmert also said he recognizes that as students return to campus, they want to know if they’re going to have a championship to play for.

“Making the decision to shut down March Madness and the Frozen Four and the spring championships was awful,” he said. “You turn around and talk to coaches and kids and hear what that meant for them to have a season ripped away from them, that’s an awful thing to have to do. The first and most important implications are what it means for the students.”



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