The NCAA is establishing a phone number and email address that will allow athletes, parents and others to report alleged failures of the return-to-sport guidelines that the NCAA says schools "must follow" if they are going to conduct fall sports.
It's one of several measures laid out by the NCAA on Wednesday in a publicly released statement that stressed the "serious concerns" the NCAA Board of Governors has about the levels of COVID-19 in parts of the country as scheduled start dates for various fall sports approach.
"The board has determined that it will only support moving forward with fall championships and other postseason play if strict conditions are applied and adhered to," the NCAA statement said.
According to the statement, each NCAA division must decide by Aug. 21 whether their fall seasons and championships should occur this year. That would leave open the possibility for Division II or Division III to cancel fall championships while a Division I season continued. And even if NCAA Division I fall championships are canceled, there could still be a football season within the Football Bowl Subdivision, because the postseason at the FBS level is governed by the College Football Playoff.
"The first and most important consideration is whether sports can be conducted safely for college athletes," said Board of Governors chair Michael Drake, who is the University of California system president. "Each division must examine whether it has the resources available to take the required precautions given the spread of COVID-19."
In addition to the establishment of a hotline for the reporting of protocol violations, the NCAA is also mandating that all student-athletes who opt out of the fall season due to COVID-19 concerns be allowed to keep their scholarships.
Here is the full list of requirements laid out by the NCAA Wednesday for moving forward with fall championships:
- All fall sports activity (preseason, regular season and postseason) must follow the recently released return-to-sport guidelines from the NCAA Sport Science Institute for all athletic activity. As the guidelines change based on the ever-changing pandemic, schools must follow any future modifications.
- The NCAA will establish a phone number and email to allow college athletes, parents or others to report alleged failures. The Association will notify school and conference administrators, who will be expected to take immediate action.
- All member schools must adhere to federal, state and local guidelines related to COVID-19. Further, the conduct of NCAA championships must be in line with federal, state and local guidelines.
- All student-athletes must be allowed to opt out of participation due to concerns about contracting COVID-19. If a college athlete chooses to opt out, that individual's athletics scholarship commitment must be honored by the college or university.
- Each division must determine no later than Aug. 14 the eligibility accommodations that must be made for student-athletes who opt out of participating this fall or for those whose seasons are canceled or cut short due to COVID-19. College athletes and their families must know what their eligibility status will be before beginning the fall season.
- Member schools may not require student-athletes to waive their legal rights regarding COVID-19 as a condition of athletics participation.
- Member schools, in conjunction with existing insurance standards, must cover COVID-19 related medical expenses for student-athletes to prevent out-of-pocket expenses for college athletes and their families.
- Any NCAA fall championship or other postseason contests must be conducted within enhanced safety protocols for student-athletes and essential athletics personnel. These safety enhancements will include regular testing, separation of college athletes and essential personnel from all other nonessential personnel, and physical distancing and masking policies during all aspects of noncompetition.
- NCAA championships may use reduced bracketing, a reduced number of competitors, predetermined sites and, where appropriate, single sites to limit exposure to COVID-19.
- If 50% or more of eligible teams in a particular sport in a division cancel their fall season, there will be no fall NCAA championship in that sport in that division.
- If fall sports championships are postponed in any division, a decision to conduct that championship at a later date will be based upon the scientific data available at that time regarding COVID-19, along with other considerations.