NCAA President Mark Emmert has one basic piece of criteria necessary for college sports to return this fall: campuses with students on them. Emmert outlined the future of collegiate sports in a livestream discussion posted on the NCAA’s Twitter as it remains impacted by the coronavirus crisis.
“College athletes are college students, and you can’t have college sports if you don’t have college (campuses) open and having students on them,” Emmert told sports reporter Andy Katz. “You don’t want to ever put student-athletes at greater risk than the rest of the student body. That doesn’t mean [the school] has to be up and running in the full normal model, but you’ve got to treat the health and well-being of the athletes at least as much as the regular students. So if a school doesn’t re-open, then they’re not going to be playing sports. It’s really that simple.”
Emmert revealed that he’s spoken with a number of school presidents and conference commissioners that are in also in agreement. However, given the scattered outlook in areas around the country, he also mentioned the possibility of some conferences starting competition before others.
All winter championships and spring sports seasons were abruptly cancelled in mid-March as the virus began its rapid spread through the U.S. Emmert explained that the call to do so – which marked the first time in history March Madness had been cancelled – came down to the health of the players. He noted that the news of NBA player Rudy Gobert’s COVID-19 diagnosis proved that the virus could infect people of any age or health level, including hundreds of college athletes.
Should campuses reopen for the fall semester, the NCAA recently shared its guidelines for the resocialization of student athletes. Those guidelines are to be rolled out in phases that would emphasize social distancing and proper sanitizing of common spaces before ultimately allowing athletes and coaches to resume in-person interactions and common areas like gyms to reopen.