NCAA forwards motion to allow fall athletes added year of eligibility; Big Ten makes statement

Georgia football
Former Georgia football players Justin Fields and Luke Ford, now at Big Ten schools Ohio State and Illinois, could have the option of maintaining a year of eligibility even if they play a spring season if the NCAA Board of Governors approves an NCAA Division I Council motion on Friday.

The NCAA Division I Council voted to allow fall semester athletes to maintain their year of eligibility regardless of how much or whether they compete in the fall or spring, according to several national media reports.

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The NCAA Board of Governors must still approve the recommendation for it to take effect. The NCAA Board of Governors is expected to vote on it Friday.

The Power 5 conference trio of the SEC, ACC and Big 12 are moving toward a fall football season, along with the Group of Five’s American Athletic Conference (AAC), Conference USA and Sun Belt.

The Big Ten and Pac-12, along with the Mid-American Conference and Mountain West Conference, canceled their fall football seasons.

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The NCAA Division I Council also approved a recommendation to move fall championships to the spring, per Yahoo Sports. That measure does not, however, apply to the FBS football ranks.

Yahoo also reported that the NCAA Division I Council passed the Football Oversight Committee’s recommendation to allow 12 hours of meetings/practice per week for fall practice tor the programs that have postponed their season until the spring.

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Meanwhile in the Big Ten, commissioner Kevin Warren issued a statement on Wednesday night about the league’s decision to cancel its season:

I write on this occasion to share with you additional information regarding the Big  Ten Conference’s decision to postpone the 2020-21 fall sports season. 

We thoroughly understand and deeply value what sports mean to our student-athletes, their families, our coaches and our fans. The vote by the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C) was overwhelmingly in support of postponing fall sports and will not be revisited. The decision was thorough and deliberative, and based on sound feedback, guidance and advice from medical experts. Despite the decision to postpone fall sports, we continue our work to find a path forward that creates a healthy and safe environment for all Big Ten student-athletes to compete in the sports they love in a manner that helps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protects both student-athletes and the surrounding communities.

 

As you are well aware, we are facing a complicated global pandemic with the SARS-CoV-2 virus discovered in November 2019. The first medically confirmed cases did not appear in the United States until January 2020. Over the course of the past seven months, the U.S. has recorded more than 5.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 resulting in more than 170,000 deaths, with more than 22 million confirmed cases and 780,000 lives lost around the world.

 

We understand the disappointment and questions surrounding the timing of our decision to postpone fall sports, especially in light of releasing a football schedule only six days prior to that decision. From the beginning, we consistently communicated our commitment to cautiously proceed one day at a time with the health, safety and wellness of our student-athletes at the center of our decision-making process. That is why we took simultaneous paths in releasing the football schedule, while also diligently monitoring the spread of the virus, testing, and medical concerns as student-athletes were transitioning to full-contact practice. 

 

While several factors contributed to the decision to postpone the 2020-21 fall sports season, at the core of our decision was the knowledge that there was too much medical uncertainty and too many unknown health risks regarding SARS-CoV-2 infection and its impact on our student-athletes.

 

Listed below are the primary factors that led to the Big Ten COP/C decision:

• Transmission rates continue to rise at an alarming rate with little indication from medical experts that our campuses, communities or country could gain control of the spread of the virus prior to the start of competition.

• As our teams were ramping up for more intense practices, many of our medical staffs did not think the interventions we had planned would be adequate to decrease the potential spread even with very regular testing.

• As the general student body comes back to campus, spread to student-athletes could reintroduce infection into our athletics community.

• There is simply too much we do not know about the virus, recovery from infection, and longer-term effects. While the data on cardiomyopathy is preliminary and incomplete, the uncertain risk was unacceptable at this time.

• Concerns surrounding contact tracing still exist, including the inability to social distance in contact sports pursuant to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. While risk mitigation processes (e.g., physical distancing, face coverings, proper hygiene, etc.) can be implemented across campus for the student body population, it became clear those processes could not be fully implemented in contact sports.

• With the start of full-contact practices and competitions, it became increasingly clear that contact tracing and quarantining would risk frequent and significant disruptions to the practice and competition calendar.

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