The NCAA is continuing to adapt its policies to adjust to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, and on Wednesday, announced its latest set of changes.
Most notable is a provision that allows athletes to opt out of the 2020 season and still retain their scholarship status — a big concern of the player groups that we’ve seen emerge lately.
Also included are guarantees that students will not be liable for medical expenses related to COVID-19 and will not be asked to waive any legal rights in relation to athletics participation.
From the official release:
All fall sports activity (preseason, regular season and postseason) must follow the recently released return-to-sport guidelines from the NCAA Sport Science Institute for all athletic activity. As the guidelines change based on the ever-changing pandemic, schools must follow any future modifications.
The NCAA will establish a phone number and email to allow college athletes, parents or others to report alleged failures. The Association will notify school and conference administrators, who will be expected to take immediate action.
All member schools must adhere to federal, state and local guidelines related to COVID-19. Further, the conduct of NCAA championships must be in line with federal, state and local guidelines.
All student-athletes must be allowed to opt out of participation due to concerns about contracting COVID-19. If a college athlete chooses to opt out, that individual’s athletics scholarship commitment must be honored by the college or university.
Each division must determine no later than Aug. 14 the eligibility accommodations that must be made for student-athletes who opt out of participating this fall or for those whose seasons are canceled or cut short due to COVID-19. College athletes and their families must know what their eligibility status will be before beginning the fall season.
Member schools may not require student-athletes to waive their legal rights regarding COVID-19 as a condition of athletics participation.
Member schools, in conjunction with existing insurance standards, must cover COVID-19 related medical expenses for student-athletes to prevent out-of-pocket expenses for college athletes and their families.
Any NCAA fall championship or other postseason contests must be conducted within enhanced safety protocols for student-athletes and essential athletics personnel. These safety enhancements will include regular testing, separation of college athletes and essential personnel from all other nonessential personnel, and physical distancing and masking policies during all aspects of noncompetition.
NCAA championships may use reduced bracketing, a reduced number of competitors, predetermined sites and, where appropriate, single sites to limit exposure to COVID-19.
If 50% or more of eligible teams in a particular sport in a division cancel their fall season, there will be no fall NCAA championship in that sport in that division.
If fall sports championships are postponed in any division, a decision to conduct that championship at a later date will be based upon the scientific data available at that time regarding COVID-19, along with other considerations.