NCAA President Mark Emmert said on Thursday that the NCAA will not hold DI fall championships this year. The announcement affects men's and women's cross country, field hockey, FCS, men's and women's soccer, women's volleyball and men's water polo. Division II and Division III had previously canceled their fall championships. Emmert also said the NCAA is looking into holding fall sports championships in the winter or spring.
"We cannot now, at this point, have fall NCAA championships, because there’s not enough schools participating," Emmert said. "The Board of Governors also said, 'Look, if you don’t have half of the schools playing a sport, you can’t have a legitimate championship.' So we can’t in any Division I NCAA championship sport, which is everything other than FBS football, that goes on in the fall. Sadly, tragically, that’s going to be the case this fall, full-stop.
"But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t and can’t turn toward winter and spring and, create a legitimate championship for all those students."
Emmert reiterated the NCAA has never had oversight over the FBS, its bowl games and any postseason play for the highest level of college football.
Emmert said he's confident a solution for fall sports can be implemented, but that the highest priority is to the winter and spring sports because they lost their championships earlier this year. He also said fall will be used to keep student-athletes healthy, engaged with coaches and focused on academics. Emmert emphasized the importance of remaining committed to fall student-athletes, including making sure they can still have contact with their coaches and athletic departments.
"The last thing you want to do is gloss over mental-health issues. I worry profoundly about this. Sports is at the center of these young men’s and women’s lives. We want them to continue to be," Emmert said. "If we think about what’s going on this fall, rather than thinking about it as a canceled or a lost fall, let’s instead think of it as a pivot toward winter and spring. Let’s use the fall to focus on the physical and mental health, the academic success of our student-athletes."
Emmert addressed eligibility and said if teams are playing, student-athletes must be given a chance to opt-out because of COVID-19 and remain on scholarship. On Wednesday, the Division I Council recommended to the Division I Board of Directors that student-athletes that do play this fall get an extra season of competition eligibility if they participate in 50% or less of the number of competitions.
"The point is to try and preserve eligibility, make sure kids don’t lose scholarships," Emmert said.
Emmert said they're looking into shrinking bracket sizes, keying in on pre-determined sites and bubble models for sports.
"Is it doable? Yeah," Emmert said. "We want to make it work for the students."