In the much-anticipated announcement on Tuesday by the NCAA, the Board of Governors bypassed a decision across all NCAA divisions for fall sports championships, including volleyball. Instead, the Board “expressed serious concerns” about the spread of COVID-19 and directed each division to make its own conclusion and emphasized some requirements in order to make that call.
On Wednesday, Division II and III announced their respective decisions about the fall season championships. Division I has yet to make their statement, even as many student-athletes have returned to campus for their report date this week.
The DII and DII fall championships have been cancelled (not postponed) for the 2020-21 year. Both divisions noted that the decision came after careful consideration of the health and well-being of the student-athletes, coaches, and athletics staff members to conduct a championship in the fall, and was not logistically and financially feasible to move the championships to the spring.
NCAA President Mart Emmert said, “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. 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.”
In short, with guidance from the NCAA COVID-19 Advisory panel, the Board’s requirements include:
— Following NCAA return-to-sport guidelines;
— Supplying a phone number “to report alleged failures”;
— Member institutions must follow local, state, and federal guidelines regarding COVID-19;
— Member institutions must cover COVID-19 related medical expenses;
— Student-athletes are allowed to opt out of participation due to COVID-19 concerns and must determine eligibility by August 14th; student-athletes will be able to keep their athletic scholarships and will not have to waive legal rights to do so;
— If fall championship/post-season occurs, must follow “enhanced safety protocols”; may use reduced bracketing and number of teams; and
— Divisions must determine whether their fall sports seasons and NCAA championships should occur this year, by August 21st
Stated in the release on Wednesday, August 5th: “Division II’s seven fall 2020 championships are canceled, the Division II Presidents Council decided Wednesday due to the operational, logistical and financial challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Division noted that 11 of the 23 conferences already decided not to compete during the fall semester and would be difficult to meet the NCAA’s requirements which state that if 50-percent or more of a division’s eligible teams in a sport cancel their fall season, the fall championship will also be cancelled.
To address eligibility issues, the DII Administrative Committee approved waivers on July 22 to retain their season of competition if they compete in fewer than half of the sport’s maximum number of games due to the cancellation of their season because of COVID-19.
On June 18, the NCAA DII Administrative Committee approved a blanket waiver to “allow schools to adjust schedules during a fall sport’s championship and nonchampionship segment” for this year only, allowing for more flexible schedules. The August 5th decision reiterated that vision.
Many of the programs and conferences that have yet to cancel their seasons have made public statements that they are looking for solutions for their fall semester schedule as well as alternative championship opportunities.
On August 5th, DIII cancelled its fall championships after “looking at the health and safety challenges we face this fall during this unprecedented time,” said Tori Murden McClure, Chair of the Presidents Council and president at Spalding. “Our Championships Committee reviewed the financial and logistical ramifications if Division III fall sports championships were conducted in the spring and found it was logistically untenable and financially prohibitive. Our Management Council reached the same conclusion.”
The Chair also mentioned that because the competitive season and championships for winter and spring sport student-athletes were cut short last year, DIII “will try to maximize the championships experience” for them.
The biggest question remains – if conferences have yet to cancel or postpone their seasons, will schools still compete without a championship? The decision is required to be made by August 21st and must comply with the requirements by the NCAA Board.