NCAA President Discusses Pitfalls Of Upcoming Season

College football fans have been concerned as to whether they’ll get to see Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, and the rest of the Tiger football team play this season, as Dabo Swinney stated previously that he was hopeful for. Recently, things have looked a little more promising as different sectors are opening back up.

In an interview on the NCAA’s official Twitter account Friday Night NCAA president, Mark Emmert, said he does not see schools being ready to begin competing in college football or other fall sports until students return to campuses across the country. He stated that he has talked to hundreds of presidents and commissioners over the last few weeks and he believes there is consensus among them.

Emmert does believe that final decisions about fall sports resuming could come sometime next month. He also stated…

“I suspect that people are going to have to make decisions sometime in June. Maybe by the Fourth of July.”

What makes this story even more interesting though is the fact that Mark Emmert and Power 5 commissioners seem to now have a very different look at what a sports season may look like this fall during the coronavirus pandemic. 

After a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence just a short time ago they did seem to all be on the same page of no college athletics taking place until students returned to campus. Emmert still sees it that way but Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has said online classes would suffice. He stated this in a report this past week by Stadium. He said…

“Going to class in an online sense is satisfactory. There’s room for that to happen. School has to be in session, student athletes have to be going to class.

Emmert also had this to say about the situation…

“In Division I for sure, all of the commissioners and every president that I’ve talked to is in clear agreement: If you don’t have students on campus, you don’t have student-athletes on campus. That doesn’t mean it has to be up and running in the full, normal model. But you have to treat the health and well being of the athletes as much as the regular students. If a school doesn’t re-open, they aren’t going to be playing sports and it’s really that simple. We’re not going to relax on health and well being. Will that mean some school doesn’t play as full a schedule as another a school and that may create some inequity in their ability to participate in a championship? Possibly. We’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there. But you build everything around safety. I’ll be delighted to have those debates later in the fall.”

An AP report this past week stated that nine of the 14 ACC schools had announced plans to re-open campuses for students this fall. After schools figure out how to get back on the field, which NCAA chief medical expert Brian Hainline said it looks like will come after a 4-6 week prep time, the matter of if fans and just how many can attend the games will be tackled. Hainline said the likely scenario is to start small as far as fan attendance and hopefully build from there. Emmert agreed with this and stated…

“Just because there is some regulation that’s been lifted, that doesn’t automatically mean you should immediately put 105,000 fans in a football stadium. The proper and sensible thing to do is use this phased approach that (Hainline) and the advisory team are talking about and indeed the federal government has been talking about where you start at one end..and continue along. It’s plausible to me that in football you see very limited fan access — but by later in the season as things develop in hopefully a very positive way — you all of a sudden can see larger fanbases attending. It’s not clear to me socially where communities are whether or not 105,000 fans are ready to sit in a stadium side-by-side like that. That’s an important piece of this is making sure people have choices they can make that they are comfortable with.”

Emmert also pointed out that they have to weigh the factor of potential outbreaks in the fall as well… 

“Then there’s the scenario that we’re all a little nervous over but we have to think about is what if we have an outbreak in a community on a campus. What do we do then? How does the campus and fanbase handle it? What do you do with the student-athletes? We’ve got a just a little bit of to think about it because that’s certainly plausible with 1,100 NCAA schools and 19,000 teams and half a million student-athletes. The arithmetic is not in your favor if you think you’re not going to have any outbreaks in that cohort. We’re working through all of these scenarios for all the best medical and public-health advice we can to bear and helping the schools and conferences make decisions accordingly.”

So what does this mean? Honestly, it’s what we already knew…that water is wet.  Clemson, like many other universities across our country, is already preparing for campus to open back up for the fall semester, at least partially. That’s the only way to get back to what is going to be another new normal, and it will be the only way that football fans will get to see the sport they love so much. 

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