NCAA Sports

NCAA punts on fall sports championships decision, but says coronavirus will force changes

The NCAA held off on a final decision on its fall championship events Friday, much to the relief of the college football-industrial complex.

But while the governing body for college sports has kicked the can down the road once again amid the coronavirus pandemic, it still signaled significant changes will likely be needed if there will actually competitions this year.

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NCAA president Mark Emmert said he and the organization’s Board of Governors will continue deliberations at its August meeting, but “we all remain deeply concerned about the infection trend lines we see” and “it is clear that the format of our championships will have to change if they are to be conducted in a safe and fair manner.”

Those unspecified changes will apparently reflect health and safety impacts and “other complexities” that include “team availability, travel limitations and various local and state restrictions.”

Friday’s BOG meeting was considered a potentially critical one because a decision to cancel fall championships could have indirectly shut down college football.

The NCAA only has control over its championship events (the College Football Playoff and bowl system does not fall under its umbrella) and it cannot cancel an entire season in any sport. Even if the NCAA canceled the championships, either now, in August or at a later date, there can still be college football this fall (or college cross country, field hockey, soccer, volleyball and any other fall sport) There just would not be national tournaments.

But a letter to the BOG from the NCAA Football Oversight Committee requesting it not make a decision now seemed to suggest NCAA member schools would interpret a cancellation as declaration it is not safe to play the affected sports this fall. And, it seems, member schools are not eager to play a football season and claim it is safe while shutting down all other sports. So, we wait.

The Big Ten has already announced plans to play conference-only schedules in football and its other fall sports. But it has yet to release revised schedules for Rutgers and its other 13 members.

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James Kratch may be reached at jkratch@njadvancemedia.com.

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