The NCAA Board of Governors issued requirements U.S. schools and conferences must meet if they want to conduct fall sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
All student-athletes must be allowed to opt out of participating because of concerns about contracting the coronavirus, the NCAA said Wednesday in a statement. If an athlete does so, his or her athletics scholarship must be honored by the school.
“Student-athletes should never feel pressured into playing their sport if they do not believe it is safe to do so. These policies ensure they can make thoughtful, informed decisions about playing this fall,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in the statement.
Colleges and conferences have been racing to firm up decisions with seasons scheduled to begin next month. Divisions must decide by Aug. 21 if their fall sports seasons and NCAA championships should occur this year, according to the board.
Member schools aren’t allowed to require student-athletes to waive their legal rights related to COVID-19 as a condition of athletics participation, the NCAA said in the statement. A system will be set up that allows alleged failures to be reported.
A handful of Division I conferences have already announced they will not be competing in the upcoming semester, including the Ivy League, the Atlantic 10 and the Patriot League. Some leagues remain hopeful traditional fall sports can be played later in the year, while others are setting up seasons comprising mainly conference games.