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Feckless NCAA punts all Covid-19 decisions to schools and divisions

The same organization that has spent generations ensuring “student-athletes” don’t ever get a free meal completely punts on the safety of students in the middle of a pandemic.

Mark Emmert, president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), looks on during a brief press availability on Capitol Hill December 17, 2019 in Washington, DC.  Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Update 5:30 p.m.: The NCAA has canceled all fall sports championships in Division II and Division III.

When the NCAA Board of Governors couldn’t come to a conclusion Tuesday evening after an almost seven hour meeting, it portended some disagreements amongst the 25-member body of university presidents, athletic directors, and others that oversees college athletics.

Wednesday, they released a statement full of sound and fury signifying nothing, a totem to feckless leadership as meaningless as regulations regarding cream cheese on a bagel. And because of their inability to show leadership, they punted the entire outcome of college sports in 2020 to the membership of divisions (D1, D2, D3), with the divisions being asked to make decisions by August 14th.

You want feckless? Here’s the first bullet point.

All member schools must adhere to federal, state and local guidelines related to COVID-19. Further, the conduct of NCAA fall sports championships must be in line with federal, state and local guidelines.

Good thing you’re expecting colleges to “follow the law.” Way to stick your neck out there, people in charge of athletes at 1,400 higher education institutions. Bold of you.

The fall sports are men’s and women’s cross-country, men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey, women’s volleyball, men’s waterpolo, and FCS football. If more than 50% of the teams in a sport choose not to compete in a fall sport, no championship will take place. And of course none of this applies to FBS football because the conferences and College Football Playoff took away governance of the largest sport years ago.

This likely gets D2 and D3 programs that are more budget-strapped than ever out of trying to play seasons in smaller sports, not withstanding the expense of the Covid-19 testing that would be required to practice and play.

But it also allows Division I to make separate decisions, which would be terrific if schools were being responsible. But as we’re seeing already, that’s not happening. And by not putting in place any real markers or standards outside of common sense, with zero commitment to minimum testing requirements, athletes will be at the mercy not only of their institution but also their opponents. Good luck to everyone playing Liberty.

The “specific guidelines” released include a NCAA Chris Paul Hotline where athletes and staff can snitch on schools and coaches that aren’t following protocol. For an organization that has outsourced all of its investigative power in major cases because of decades of ineffectiveness, having them charged with protecting the health of students in the middle of a pandemic seems like a rather awful solution.

So now the future of college sports is in the hands of each division, and they each have nine days to decide which athletes can be allowed to compete. Somehow we bet a greater percentage of FBS football teams than volleyball teams will end up choosing to go forward. Just a hunch.