NCAA delays decision on fall sport championships


The NCAA Board of Governors on Friday avoided making any major decisions about fall sports championships, stating it will continue discussions in August — a decision that is likely to appease the FBS conference commissioners and athletic directors who voiced strong opposition to cancelling championships at this point in the coronavirus pandemic.

The Board of Governors, which is comprised mainly of university presidents representing all three divisions, has the authority to cancel or postpone NCAA fall championships for sports like soccer, women’s volleyball, and FCS football. The regular-season games and schedules, though, are at the discretion of the individual schools or their conferences.

In a statement released Friday on Twitter, NCAA president Mark Emmert said he and the board will “continue to thoughtful and aggressively monitor health conditions around the country and the implementation of the COVID-19 guidelines we issued last week.

“The health and well-being of college athletes is the highest priority in deciding whether to proceed with our 22 NCAA championships beginning in late November,” he said. “We all remain deeply concerned about the infection trend lines we see. 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.”

While a potential cancellation of NCAA fall sports championships doesn’t directly impact the College Football Playoff or the FBS college football season, decision-makers across the sport are concerned about the trickle-down effect the decision would ultimately have on big-time college football.

In a July 21 letter addressed to the NCAA Board of Governors and shared with ESPN on Wednesday, Football Oversight Committee chair Shane Lyons asked the board not to make an immediate decision “so that conferences and schools may have ample latitude to continue to evaluate the viability of playing football this fall.”

Ohio Valley Conference commissioner Beth DeBauche, who is the president of the College Commissioners Association, said 27 of the 32 Division I conferences that comprise the group also sent a letter to the NCAA’s Board of Governors this week asking for patience in the decision-making process.

Lyons, also the athletic director at West Virginia, told ESPN on Friday he considered the board’s approach to be good news.

“Obviously we appreciate them contemplating the matter and holding off any decisions at this time,” Lyons said. “It gives us more time to continue to watch the trends of the virus and make decisions in the coming weeks.”

The Board of Governors is expected to meet again on Aug. 4, but Lyons said that date — less than two weeks away — is still too early to make a determination on fall championships.

“Right now the letter would even stand on Aug. 4,” he said. “I still feel that the time in early August is still not the time to make the call that’s going to impact something come November, December for the fall championships, which could be far-reaching into FBS football and bowl games and the regular season. Time is an asset, and we need to take advantage of that and not rush to make any decisions until we need more and keep moving forward.”

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