The decision includes all fall sports apart from the top-tier Football Bowl Subdivision, which the NCAA does not govern. There will be no fall championships for men’s and women’s cross-country, field hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, men’s water polo and the Football Championship Subdivision. Emmert said the NCAA hopes to hold a “legitimate championship” for athletes who participate in those sports in the winter or spring.
Meanwhile, the College Football Playoff plans to move forward with its national championship, even though four of the 10 FBS conferences have canceled their fall seasons. Two Power Five conferences, the Big Ten and the Pac-12, announced this week the postponement of fall sports. The Mid-American Conference and the Mountain West Conference also decided against playing football this fall.
“We don’t know right now what the season will bring, but as a committee, we are ready to use the protocol and the expertise of the 13 people who have been charged with selecting the teams,” Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta, the College Football Playoff’s selection committee chair, said in a statement Thursday. “The committee’s task is to rank the teams based on what happens on the field.”
The six FBS conferences moving forward with fall sports are the SEC, the ACC, the Big 12, the American Athletic Conference, the Sun Belt Conference and Conference USA. With the NCAA’s decision to cancel championships, athletes at those schools would not be able to compete for a national title this fall. For instance, a volleyball player in the SEC could compete in a regular season and for a conference title but not an NCAA championship.
For a fall championship to be held in the winter or spring, at least half of eligible schools would need to participate in a postponed season. Emmert said many schools have indicated they’d want to pursue that option.
“We can use the fall to keep kids healthy, keep them engaged with their coaches and their athletic departments, focus on their academic success, work with them and let them practice and stay ready to play,” Emmert said. “Then let’s go compete at that time.”
Emmert added that when rescheduling fall championships, priority must be placed on winter and spring sports that lost their championship games or tournaments earlier this year because of the coronavirus. He said it could be possible to hold these championship events during this academic calendar if they “move toward bubbles or semi-bubble models” with games at predetermined sites that reduce travel.
Some professional leagues in the United States have returned to play successfully by competing in an insular environment. Emmert acknowledging such a model as a possibility is a significant step toward the resumption of college sports. Previously, some leaders in college athletics didn’t think a bubble model was feasible because of the athletes’ amateur status and the NCAA’s stated belief that athletes should be integrated with the general university population.
“There’s a way to do it,” Emmert said. “Will it be normal? Of course not. You’ll be playing fall sport in the spring. Will it create other conflicts and challenges? Of course. But is it doable? Yeah. It is doable. And we want to do that. We want to make it work for these students.”