NCAA weighs moratorium amid push to offer fall sports

NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. College athletic facilities closed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. The NCAA’s current moratorium on all athletic activities extends through May 31.

The NCAA Division I Council voted Wednesday to lift a moratorium on voluntary workouts by football and men’s and women’s basketball players effective June 1.

The move allows athletes to return to campus for workouts if their conference and school also decide to lift the suspension of team activities.

College athletic facilities closed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. The NCAA’s current moratorium on all athletic activities extends through May 31.

The Division I Council will address the resumption of workouts in sports other than football and basketball at a later date, Yahoo reported.

Because of varying local and state guidelines, college athletes are not expected to return to campus at the same time.

Conferences and schools can choose to enforce start dates later than June 1.

“We encourage each school to use its discretion to make the best decisions possible for football and basketball student-athletes within the appropriate resocialization framework,” Penn athletic director and council chair M. Grace Calhoun said in a statement.

Yahoo reported that the NCAA will leave testing protocols to the states and individual schools.

Also Wednesday, the Division I Council opted not to vote on a rule change that would enable undergraduate football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball and hockey transfers to play right away without having to sit out a year (the same green light that other athletes already have). Athletes would have been given that green light just once in their undergraduate careers.

Because the council took no action, the possible rule change is dead for the upcoming school year. Undergraduate transfers in those sports will still have to sit out the 2020-21 school year, unless they are granted an NCAA waiver.

So athletes such as running back Raheem Blackshear, who transferred from Rutgers to Virginia Tech back in January, and women’s basketball player Azana Baines, who is transferring from Duke to Virginia Tech, will have to go through the NCAA waiver process if they want to play in the upcoming school year.

The same is true for men’s basketball player Landers Nolley, who is transferring from Tech to Memphis, and men’s basketball player Isaiah Wilkins, who is transferring from Tech to Wake Forest.

The Division I Board of Directors had recommended last month that the council not change the rule at this time.

The council instead decided Wednesday to adopt by January a comprehensive legislative package on transfer rule changes. If legislation eventually gets approved on immediate eligibility for undergradute transfers, a rule change would go into effect beginning in the 2021-22 school year.

The council’s decision to allow athletes to return to campus for workouts this summer is the first step toward preparing for a 2020 football season.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said in a conference call Wednesday that he believes the Buckeyes could safely play home games with 20,000 to 30,000 fans in its 105,000-seat stadium.

Smith said he hadn’t figured out yet how those spectators would be chosen.

Ohio State is ready to open the Woody Hayes Athletic Center to athletes starting June 8.

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.

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

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