NCAA Establishes COVID-19 Working Group to Address Potential Challenges for College Football, Other Fall Sports

By Dan Hope on April 10, 2020 at 12:44 pm
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Kirby Lee – USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA has established a COVID-19 Playing and Practice Seasons Working Group to address potential challenges that college football and other fall sports could face this year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

According to a statement sent to administrators by the NCAA on Friday, the internal working group will assist the NCAA membership “with evaluating medical, operational and potential rules challenges for upcoming seasons of training and competition.” The working group “will be responsible for identifying, examining and recommending advice, solutions and/or direction to the relevant governance committees to respond to playing and practice issues of a national scope arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The working group will primarily focus on football, with direct communication between the working group and the NCAA's Division I Football Oversight Committee and Division II and III Football Committees. That said, “emerging strategies likely will be applicable to all fall sports impacted by current events.”

According to the statement, “there are many ‘what if’ scenarios that this group will assess, including possible modifications of conditioning and training in the summer and preseason. Given currently available data and infrastructure for disease management for COVID-19, it is premature to establish a timeline for when these scenarios may be put in place. The group will provide regular updates regarding its progress and related recommendations with the understanding that any policy or legislative changes must be approved by the membership and the respective divisional governance structures.”

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said Friday that he believes it is “critical” for college athletics leaders to work together to ensure that everyone is on the same page nationally with plans for returning to team activities and competition. Specifically in regard to football, Smith said it is necessary to determine a model for players to have adequate practice time before any games are played in order to decrease the risk of injuries.

“The NCAA, the Football Oversight Committee, conference commissioners, the American Football Coaches Association, the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports, and there’s an NCAA COVID-19 advisory panel, all of us are collaborating to determine what’s the best return to play for the players, and then ultimately the conversation will shift to what the season will be,” Smith said.

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