STATE COLLEGE – NCAA-affiliated schools will have to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines created by the NCAA Board of Governors to compete athletically this fall.

Additionally, each of the NCAA's three divisions must also “determine its ability to meet these requirements to conduct fall championships.”

The NCAA Division II and Division III President Councils on Wednesday afternoon announced the cancellation of all fall championships. 

“The board expressed serious concerns about the continuing high levels of COVID-19 infection in many parts of the nation,” the NCAA said in a statement on Wednesday. “The board has determined that it will only support moving forward with fall championships and other postseason play if strict conditions are applied and adhered to.”

The protocols aim to ensure student-athletes safety and create transparency during the COVID-19 health crisis.

Included in the 11-point guideline created by the NCAA Board of Governors is the option for student-athletes to forgo playing this fall because of concerns of the coronavirus pandemic. The NCAA’s latest order protects student-athletes from losing their athletic scholarship should they choose not to play.

“All student-athletes must be allowed to opt out of participation due to concerns about contracting COVID-19," reads the guidelines. "If a college athlete chooses to opt out, that individual’s athletics scholarship commitment must be honored by the college or university.” 

The new guidelines instruct the NCAA’s divisions to report by Aug. 14 their respective players who decide to sit out the 2020 season as to allow the student-athletes time to know their eligibility status.

“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,” the guidelines read.

Also included is the creation of a phone number and an email address for student-athletes, parents and other university-affiliated staff to contact to “report alleged failures.”

Hours before the NCAA’s Board of Governors’ guideline release, an unnamed 1,000 Big Ten student-athletes via The Players Tribune voiced their concerns regarding the 2020 season in a letter addressed to The NCAA and the Big Ten Conference titled, ‘#BigTenUnited.’

“The NCAA — which is known for its zeal for regulations and enforcement — has had ample time to prepare for the safe return of its athletes to competition, yet it has done nothing,” read the players’ letter. “Its laissez-faire approach is forcing each conference and each school to create its own plan, resulting in inconsistent policies, procedures and protocols.”

The players urged for oversight and transparency and asked for “Third-party, approved by players, to administer COVID testing and to enforce all COVID-19 health and safety standards,” “Sufficient penalties for noncompliance” and “Mandate for athletics personnel to report suspected violations.”

Also included in the players’ letter were requests that the temperature is taken for any visitors to their schools’ athletic facilities, proper sanitation of athletic equipment and buildings, COVID-19 testing for anyone in with student-athletes, coaches or any member of athletic staffs and three-day-a-week testing for COVID-19.

Additionally, the league’s student-athletes have also requested whistleblower protections for themselves and their program’s staff, complimentary access to the Big Ten Network for their family members and other desires.

“We have started a dialogue in good faith with the Big Ten and hope that the NCAA will follow suit,” reads the players’ letter. “Given the short time frame, and with our season at stake, this conversation must happen now.”

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