NCAA President Mark Emmert: No NCAA Championships in Fall

Between the lines - Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Mark Emmert said Thursday in a video posted to the NCAA’s twitter account that there won’t be NCAA championships this fall season, citing lack of schools and leagues participating.

The decision affects 22 sports in which the NCAA crowns champions, including the Division I Football Championship Subdivision. It does not, however, affect the Football Bowl Subdivision, which operates on its own.

The fall season cancellation by the Big East Wednesday raised the number of schools to have cancelled or postponed fall sports to more than 50 percent of the NCAA’s membership, a level that the NCAA president deemed insufficient to crown champions.

“The board of governors also established if you don’t have half of the schools playing a sport, you can’t have a legitimate championship,” Emmert said in the video. “We can’t in any Division I NCAA championship sport now — which is everything other than FBS football that goes on in the fall. Sadly, tragically, that’s going to be the case this fall, full stop.”

The decision means that the COVID-19 pandemic will now have wiped out three seasons worth of NCAA championships. The winter championships were postponed in March, even as some were in progress. The NCAA eventually cancelled the spring sports season entirely, after many leagues and schools proceeded in that direction individually. Last week, the NCAA canceled Division II and III fall sports championships.

Though the NCAA is not pulling the plug on the fall season, the paucity of leagues left contesting a regularly-scheduled fall means that NCAA championships aren’t viable.

Emmert rendered no decision on winter sports in this message. He did leave open the possibility that NCAA championships could be conducted at a later time if sports are able to cohere to a unified season, in the spring for instance. He did, however, say that because of the winter and spring athletes missing out on championships last year, they have a certain priority in crafting what the 2020-21 academic year looks like.

“We have to give highest priority to the winter and spring sports because they lost their championships last March,” Emmert said. “We made that horrible, awful but necessary choice to shut down. Didn’t have Frozen Fours, didn’t have Final Fours, did have World Series in baseball or softball or track championships, lacrosse – we lost all of that. First and foremost, we’re going to protect those spaces. But then when we look at it and say, look if we modify the model, which we need to do anyway because of the virus, if we modify the model, shrink the bracket sizes, do everything in predetermined sites instead of running kids around the country, move toward bubbles or semi-bubble models in volleyball, say, or soccer, there’s a way to do it.

“Will be normal? Of course not. You’ll be playing a fall sport in the spring. Will it create other challenges and conflicts? Of course. But is it doable? Yeah, it is doable, and we want to do that.”

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