Fall Chaos Has Implications for all Division I Athletics

The NCAA announced Friday that it is moving non-football fall championships to the spring because of the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement applies to all NCAA fall sports except the highest level of college football, the Football Bowl Subdivision, which is governed by a separate independent body, the College Football Playoff.

With the announcement, the NCAA announced the following policies for all Division I member schools:

  • Schools are prohibited from requiring student-athletes to waive legal rights regarding COVID-19 as a condition of athletics participation.
  • Schools are prohibited from canceling or reducing athletics scholarships if a college athlete in any sport opts not to participate due to COVID-19.
  • Student-athletes who do not enroll full time during the 2020 fall term have flexibility in the progress-toward-degree requirements that must be met for eligibility in future terms.
  • The financial aid of fall sport senior student-athletes who take advantage of the additional year of eligibility and extended clock will not count against team limits in 2021-22.

While college fall championships are moved to the spring, the College Football Playoff said earlier this month that its semifinals are scheduled for Jan. 1 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, and the Allstate Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. The championship is scheduled for Jan. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.

By postponing the fall championships, the board might set in motion an eventual breakaway from the NCAA by the Power Five – the 65 total schools from the nation’s largest most powerful conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) plus Notre Dame.

Football players in the Big 10 and PAC-12 are left to wonder why some teams can play in the fall and other teams cannot. No place demonstrates the stark contrast better than in the state of Iowa where the University of Iowa (Big 10) shut down fall football operations while Iowa State (Big 12) is preparing for the beginning of fall football.

Without a centralized governing body or commissioner, the Big 12, SEC and ACC are prepared to leave the Pac-12 and Big 10 in the championship dust. All this while the NCAA considers proposals for current fall athletes to continue training up to 16-20 hours per week during the pandemic. However, not all universities agree with that decision, either.

The split has given the NCAA a black eye as they have failed to ‘rein in’ member schools with timely, consistent policies and led many observers to speculate that the Power Five need their own organization and centralized governance. Plus, with mounting financial losses, the new “Super Conference” could recoup more money for their programs instead of sharing funding, mostly from college basketball championships, with the NCAA and non-Power Five institutions.

7 thoughts on “Fall Chaos Has Implications for all Division I Athletics”

  1. Short term, this only impacts men’s and women’s soccer and volleyball. No decision yet on basketball or hockey which are ‘winter sports. However, I would expect these sports to start later with conference-only games. Still, no firm decision yet.

  2. I don’t see the P5 breaking away. If those P5 schools were to only play each other, about half of them are going to have losing records, and many of the good schools today will be mediocre year after year at best. Alumni and fans will hate it…

    They all will miss having 3-4 bodybag wins each season.

    1. Iowa cut Swimming and Diving (they were good), Men’s Tennis (also respectable), and Men’s gymnastics today. I can’t imagine this will be the last collegiate sport cuts unfortunately.

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