Thursday, August 13, 2020

It was just a matter of time’: NCAA calls off all non-football Division I fall sports championships

KU volleyball plays its first match in the newly renovated Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena against Morehead State Thursday, Sept. 12.

KU volleyball plays its first match in the newly renovated Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena against Morehead State Thursday, Sept. 12.


The Big 12, SEC and ACC may be forging ahead with fall sports, but there will be no postseason championships for their non-football athletes to chase, the NCAA announced Thursday.

“We cannot now at this point have fall NCAA championships,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a video Thursday evening, “because there’s not enough schools participating.”

The decision doesn’t impact the FBS football programs that remain moving toward competition, but covers all other sports, including volleyball, soccer and cross country — three programs impacted at the University of Kansas. The Big 12 decided earlier this week to play conference-only schedules in soccer and volleyball.

KU soccer head coach Mark Francis told the Journal-World Thursday night that he was grateful, at least, that the Jayhawks weren’t caught off guard.

“It was just a matter of time,” Francis said. “We just feel fortunate right now that we still have the chance to train, that we still have a season and that we still have the chance to compete. We’re thankful for our university and the Big 12 for allowing us to do that, and we’re looking forward to the season.”

KU volleyball coach Ray Bechard also said in a statement to the Journal-World that the NCAA’s decision on fall championships felt inevitable.

“Though disappointed, we will use this decision to demonstrate our core values — grit and grace,” Bechard said. “We will continue to train with purpose and be thankful for the opportunities Kansas Athletics provides for us.”

The NCAA’s Board of Governors decided earlier in August that fall sports championships couldn’t take place if 50% or more of eligible teams in a sport canceled or postponed their fall seasons. As more conferences around the country, most notably the Big Ten and Pac-12, shut down their fall sports in the past week, having some smaller form of fall national championships became impossible, at least for now.

“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t and can’t turn toward winter and spring,” Emmert said, “and say, ‘How can we create a legitimate championship for those students?’ There are ways to do this. I am completely confident we can figure this out.”

Emmert said the NCAA would prioritize staging championships in winter and spring sports because those — including the NCAA basketball tournaments — were canceled when COVID-19 first spiked across the U.S. in March.

Moving fall sports to the spring still must go through the Division I Council, which consists of representatives of all 32 conferences, and be approved by the DI Board of Directors.

“If we modify the model, which we need to do anyway because of the virus, shrink the bracket sizes, do everything in predetermined sites instead of running kids around the country. Use predetermined sites, move toward a bubble or semi-bubble models,” Emmert said. “Will it be normal? Of course not. Will it create other conflicts and challenges? Of course. But is it doable? Yeah.”

The previous week, Divisions II and III canceled their fall championships. Division I — which consists of 357 schools — held on, but as conference after conference canceled fall seasons, the tipping point came.

Earlier in the day, the NCAA’s chief medical officer and two of its infectious disease expert advisers in an AP report warned that the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 throughout the United States remains an enormous obstacle for college sports to overcome.

“I feel like the Titanic. We have hit the iceberg, and we’re trying to make decisions of what time should we have the band play,” said Dr. Carlos Del Rio, executive associate dean at Emory University.

Del Rio said conferences are coming to different decisions not because they have different information, but because they are assessing risk differently.

“Some conferences will say, we’ll go forward. It’s a very narrow path, hopefully they’ll be no infections and if there are infections we’ll be able to detect them, and we we’ll be able to stop them and we won’t have an outbreak,” Del Rio said. “But other conferences say, no. Our tolerance is for zero risk and therefore we will not have it. It’s exactly the same data just being looked at in different ways.”


Brett McCabe 5 months, 1 week ago

At some point, the mini-me conference will move to spring. We just need UT and OU approval. And the SEC and ACC to announce first. I think that the little-ten is embracing the idea of leading from behind.

It would be nice is we could try and get at least one thing right in response to the orange virus.

David Kelley-Wood 5 months, 1 week ago

As pains in the backside go, the Wuhan Flu qualifies as a big one. As a resident of Wuhan for the past few years, I feel entitled to refer to the virus by that name. But, occasional excursions through this site's story comments remind me that there are tedious small ones, too.

Dirk Medema 5 months, 1 week ago

Matt - Is this what you had in mind for NCAA leadership?

Matt Tait 5 months, 1 week ago

Not exactly. Based on the first Emmert quote in the story, this seems like them reacting because their hand was forced.

Leadership, to me, is about putting together a clear plan before the sh*t hits the fan and then guiding others to the most desirable outcome with clear communication and vision. It should be creative and motivating and the people in charge should be willing to get out and front to set the pace and provide direction.

There are elements of leadership shining through here, in that Emmert and the NCAA are doing what they believe is in the best interest of the schools and student-athletes. But they have been lacking in that department in many ways during the past couple of months.

There is good news on the college basketball front, though, as Emmert and the NCAA appear to be very proactive with regard to the college hoops season and 2021 NCAA Tournament. Perhaps they have learned something of value from their hands-off, quiet approach throughout the summer.

Dane Pratt 5 months, 1 week ago

Careful there Matt. You are one vowel away from committing a KUSports user agreement violation.

Patrick Bryant 5 months, 1 week ago

The Power 3 conferences should just forge ahead and form a committee and have their own championships. Each conference send top 2 teams to a bracket play format and make a new national championship. Good way to get the NCAA out of the picture.

Spencer Goff 5 months, 1 week ago

This is a side topic slightly related to this topic.....

Have the bowls given any inclination what they plan to do?

My guess is, if they can make money without fans in the seats (TV deals) the bowl game gets played. If they cannot make money without fans being in the seats they will "do what is morally right" (wink wink, nudge nudge) and cancel the bowl game.

If the majority of the bowls decide to be played, it stands to reason that the Big 12, SEC, and ACC are going to kill it in revenue this season since the other two power (I use that term lightly with the Pac-16, hello Larry Scott) conferences have stepped out.

I would imagine all the New Year's Day games would be played, so can you imagine if the Big 12 has four or five teams in those games alone?

Ladies and Gentlemen, 3-6 KU is going bowling baby!

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