July 17, 2020
The NCAA has “handed down its latest guidelines for playing through a pandemic,” though the prospect of having a fall sports season is “looking grim,” according to Ralph Russo of the AP. NCAA President Mark Emmert in a statement said, “Today, sadly, the data point in the wrong direction. If there is to be college sports in the fall, we need to get a much better handle on the pandemic.” Russo noted the recommendations were “developed by the NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel, Autonomy-5 Medical Advisory Group, representing the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC, and other medical groups.” Among the highlights of the NCAA’s recommendations:
- Test results “should be obtained within 72 hours of competition for athletes competing in so-called high-contact risk sports, such as football, basketball, hockey and lacrosse.”
- Face shields “should be integrated into sports where feasible.”
- Masks “should be worn by everyone on a sideline, including when an athlete moves from the playing field to interact with a coach.”
- CDC guidelines “should be used for determining when individuals can resume activities after testing positive for COVID-19.” Time-based strategy “means isolation until 72 hours after recovery and at least 10 days after symptoms first appeared.”
- All individuals with high-risk exposure “must be quarantined for 14 days” (AP, 7/16).
CLOSER LOOK: SI.com’s Ross Dellenger noted the requirements “add uniformity to virus testing protocols and response procedures.” The document indicates that “out of season” testing will be “left up to the school.” The term “out of season” is “defined by a timeframe outside of mandatory workouts and games” (SI.com, 6/17).
IS THIS ENOUGH? THE ATHLETIC’s Nicole Auerbach raised an “obvious question: Now what?” She wondered, “Is weekly testing truly enough? Is a 72-hour lag between a test and a game too risky? … How many positive tests will shut down a game? How many should?” (THEATHLETIC.com, 7/16). USA TODAY’s Don Wolken writes testing just once a week prior to a game “allows too many potential holes for the virus to work its way into a locker room or onto the playing field.” Once-a-week testing “doesn’t seem like a strategy to keep the coronavirus out of college football” (USA TODAY, 7/17). In Philadelphia, Mike Jensen cites a local D-I administrator who “wondered about the 72 hour-testing period, how it’s supposed to work for someone who gets tested on a Wednesday, but goes to the mall on Thursday and a bar on Thursday night before a game on Saturday.” Jensen: “The answer might be: 24-hour testing just hasn’t proven feasible across the landscape” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 7/17).
FACING REALITY: In Louisville, Tim Sullivan writes for “all the effort athletic administrators and medical experts have expended on revising schedules and reducing risk, their tone sounds less resolute and more resigned than it was a few weeks ago.” If there is to be college football this fall, the coronavirus “will need to stop running up the score” (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 7/17). In Minneapolis, Michael Rand writes the guidelines represent the “most sobering picture yet of where things stand for fall college sports” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/17). Meanwhile, SI.com’s Pat Forde wrote if the season dies, “we know who had the biggest hand in killing any chance of it happening,” President Trump. By “blowing the summer,” Trump has “jeopardized the fall, doing more to endanger the college football season than anyone in America” (SI.com, 7/16).
LACKING IN LEADERSHIP: THE ATHLETIC’s Dana O’Neil wrote it is now “abundantly clear” the NCAA is “not in the business of leading, planning, organizing, helping, thinking, developing or orchestrating much of anything at a time of real crisis.” It has “proven both its fecklessness and its uselessness in its handling of college sports’ return to play.” In sports lingo, it has “come up small” (THEATHLETIC.com, 7/16).