Several national media outlets, including ESPN and Sports Illustrated, are reporting that conversations about canceling all fall sports for Division I of the NCAA are heating up. The conversations come in the wake of the continuing global coronavirus.
Last week, the NCAA gave each of their 3 divisions until August 21 to make a decision about whether to hold championships in fall sports in 2020. Division II and Division III quickly canceled after that mandate, but Division I has not yet made a decision. While the Division II and Division III decisions only specifically relate to championships, most of the schools in those divisions have canceled or postponed their entire fall seasons anyway.
Most of the conversation about canceling Division I fall sports initiated with the Big Ten Conference. Several outlets are reporting that the Big Ten presidents, after a meeting on Saturday, are leaning toward canceling the fall sports season. They have reportedly reached out to university presidents and chancellors from the other Power 5 conferences, the ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC, to see if those leagues would follow suit if the Big Ten were to cancel.
ESPN says that “a vast majority” of Big Ten presidents have said that they would vote to postpone football season until the spring.
While some athletes are fighting to keep the season on track, including most visibly Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, one of the most visible players in college football, there is building momentum to cancel or postpone the fall 2020 season that some have described as “inevitable” at this point.
Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde and Ross Dellenger are reporting that the decision to postpone fall sports until 2021 is “expected” at this point. Among the new information that appears to have swayed the tide in the conversation is evidence that COVID-19, in a small percentage of infected patients, leaves behind scars in the heart muscle that can have serious long-term effects.
The fall sports season of the NCAA includes one aquatic sport, men’s water polo, as part of 8 at the Division I level. Also included are football, women’s field hockey, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, and women’s volleyball.
The ramifications from the loss of football revenue, and in some cases profitable women’s volleyball programs, will have an inevitable ripple effect to other sports, including swimming & diving. Exactly how that will manifest remains to be seen. If the postponement allows for football to happen in the spring with crowds, in the event of an effective vaccine being ready for widespread distribution by then, the delay could actually be a net-positive financially.
Last week, the Mid-American Conference became the first conference in the FBS, the top level of college football, to cancel its fall 2020 athletics season.