NCAA weighs mora­to­rium amid push to of­fer fall sports

The State - - Sports - BY STEVE MEGARGEE

The NCAA Divi­sion I Coun­cil de­bated Wed­nes­day whether to let a mora­to­rium on vol­un­tary work­outs on cam­pus ex­pire at the end of the month as a grow­ing num­ber of col­lege lead­ers ex­press con­fi­dence that fall sports will be played in some form.

NCAA spokes­woman Michelle Hosick said the topic was on the agenda for the coun­cil for Wed­nes­day, though it was not clear a de­ci­sion would be made. The mora­to­rium on ath­letic ac­tiv­i­ties for all sports cur­rently runs through May 31.

From Notre Dame to LSU and more, a num­ber of schools have an­nounced plans to re­open their cam­puses for the fall se­mes­ter and con­fer­ences have be­gun set­ting up plans for how to play foot­ball amid the coro­n­avirus pan­demic. The lat­est came this week with the Florida State sys­tem an­nounc­ing plans for its 12 schools and more than 420,000 stu­dents.

Many ques­tions re­main, in­clud­ing spe­cific safety pro­to­cols and whether fans would be al­lowed if games pro­ceed.

Ohio State ath­letic di­rec­tor Gene Smith said he be­lieves the Buck­eyes could safely play home games with 20,000 to 30,000 fans in its home sta­dium, which seats about 105,000.

“I think we can get there,” Smith said.

Smith said he hadn’t fig­ured out yet how those 20,000 to 30,000 spec­ta­tors would be cho­sen. He said masks and other pre­cau­tions would be re­quired to pre­vent the spread of COVID-19.

First there’s the mat­ter of mak­ing sure play­ers can safely prac­tice.

Mid­dle Ten­nessee ath­letic di­rec­tor Chris Mas­saro said his school plans to take the tem­per­a­ture of play­ers daily and make sure they are wear­ing masks. Mas­saro has even dis­cussed mov­ing some equip­ment from the weight room to the Red Floyd Sta­dium con­course to make sure work­outs al­low so­cial dis­tanc­ing.

“We’re a lit­tle bit kind of al­most like guinea pigs,” Mid­dle Ten­nessee coach Rick Stock­still said. “We’re the ones that are com­ing back first, foot­ball’s com­ing back first all across the coun­try. So we’ve got to make sure we’re do­ing our part so there’s not a set­back, and it’s go­ing to take all of us buy­ing in and do­ing what­ever we can to keep ev­ery­body else healthy and safe.”

The pres­i­dents of Mi­ami and Notre Dame said in sep­a­rate in­ter­views they ex­pect the foot­ball sea­son to be played.

Notre Dame Pres­i­dent Fr. John Jenk­ins told MSNBC he ex­pects to have clar­ity on how – or if – the foot­ball sea­son can hap­pen in the next few weeks.

“The team it­self, I feel we can man­age that one,” Jenk­ins said. “Then the ques­tion is peo­ple in the stands. We have an 85,000-per­son sta­dium. Can we get 85,000 peo­ple in there? That will be a big chal­lenge to do that. But could we get a smaller num­ber – 10,000, 15,000, 20,000? I don’t know.”

Mi­ami Pres­i­dent Julio Frenk told CNN he hopes the Hur­ri­canes can play this fall and that safety would be the top pri­or­ity.

“They will prob­a­bly play in empty sta­di­ums, like so many other sports,” Frenk said.

Scott Wood­ward, the ath­letic di­rec­tor at de­fend­ing na­tional cham­pion LSU, said his school was pre­par­ing to wel­come back its ath­letes af­ter the South­east­ern Con­fer­ence’s clo­sure of ath­letic fa­cil­i­ties to stu­dents is slated to end May 31.

LSU will of­fer sum­mer classes on­line and doesn’t have plans to re­open its cam­pus to the gen­eral stu­dent pop­u­la­tion at least un­til the fall se­mes­ter.

Most ath­letic de­part­ments need the rev­enue gen­er­ated from foot­ball to fund their other sports. Hun­dreds of schools are reel­ing fi­nan­cially from the ef­fects of the pan­demic. Ath­letic de­part­ments, par­tic­u­larly at smaller schools and in Divi­sion II, have al­ready cut a num­ber of sports.

The NCAA this week low­ered the min­i­mum and max­i­mum num­ber of games Divi­sion II schools are re­quired to play in all sports next year. The move in­cludes a 33% re­duc­tion in the min­i­mum num­ber of games needed for spon­sor­ship and cham­pi­onship qual­i­fi­ca­tion in most sports.

Un­der the plan, D-II schools must play at least five foot­ball games to main­tain NCAA spon­sor­ship and at least seven games to be el­i­gi­ble for play­off con­sid­er­a­tion. The max­i­mum num­ber of al­low­able games is 10.

The re­quire­ments would re­turn to nor­mal in 2021-22.

File

Notre Dame Pres­i­dent Rev. John I. Jenk­ins told MSNBC he ex­pects to have clar­ity on how – or if – the foot­bal­lAP sea­son can hap­pen in the next few weeks.

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