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NCAA Div. I Council recommends D-I fall championships move to spring

NCAA Div. I Council recommends D-I fall championships move to spring

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NCAA Division I fall sports championships are one step closer to moving to next spring.

And Division I fall sports athletes, including football players, are one step closer to gaining an extra year of eligibility — no matter how much they play during the upcoming school year.

The NCAA Division I Council made both of those recommendations Wednesday to help athletes and teams dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

The Division I Board of Directors will meet Friday to approve or reject the recommendations.

The council recommended the NCAA Division I championships for soccer, volleyball, field hockey, cross country and FCS football move to next spring.

FBS football is not affected by that recommendation because the College Football Playoff is not under the NCAA umbrella.

Most Division I conferences — including the Big South, Southern Conference, Colonial Athletic Association and Atlantic 10 — have decided to move their fall sports seasons to next spring. Moving the NCAAs to the spring would still give teams a shot at playing in the NCAAs.

The ACC has still been planning to hold its fall Olympic sports season, but that could change if the NCAAs move to the spring.

NCAA President Mark Emmert announced last week that the Division I fall sports championships would not be held this fall because so many leagues had postponed their fall seasons.

The NCAA Board of Governors announced on Aug. 5 that if more than 50% of the teams in a sport in a given division choose not to play the regular season this fall, that particular NCAA tournament cannot be held this fall.

FCS football met that threshold Aug. 7. The other Division I fall sports (excluding FBS football) met that threshold last week.

So the Division I Council recommended shifting the NCAAs to next spring, rather than echo Divisions II and III and cancel the fall tournaments for the entire school year.

The format of the Division I fall tournaments next spring, such as the number of participants, has yet to be decided.

“We continue to be committed to providing opportunities wherever possible,” council chairperson and Penn athletic director M. Grace Calhoun said in an NCAA news release Wednesday. “We know how much our student-athletes value these championship opportunities and will continue to exert maximum flexibility to sponsor them.”

The Division I Council also recommended Wednesday that 2020 Division I fall sports athletes get another year of eligibility.

If the recommendation is approved Friday, this school year would not count toward a Division I fall sports athlete’s eligibility — no matter how much or how little he or she plays this fall or next spring.

Schools that are moving fall sports to the spring semester likely won’t play a full schedule. Even schools still hoping to play this fall are not planning on a full schedule, and that is before any potential COVID-19 disruptions.

Wednesday’s eligibility recommendation applies to all Division I fall sports athletes, not just seniors.

The decision echoes one made by the council last spring, when the council gave Division I spring-sports athletes another year of eligibility to make up for seasons that came to a sudden halt because of the pandemic.

Under Wednesday’s recommendations, current seniors who return next fall would not count toward a team’s scholarship limit or roster limit next fall.

n The council also recommends that schools be prohibited from taking away or reducing the scholarship of any athlete who opts out because of COVID-19 worries.

n Another recommendation is that schools be prohibited from requiring athletes to sign COVID-19 legal waivers in order to play.

n The council also ruled that football teams whose seasons have been pushed to next spring (such as VMI) will be allowed up to 12 hours each week of athletic activity this fall, including meetings, film sessions and five hours of noncontact practices.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Mark Berman covers Virginia Tech men’s basketball and many other teams at the university. He also helps cover other colleges, including Radford, VMI, Roanoke, Washington and Lee and Ferrum.

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