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.
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