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Core Principles of Resocialization of Collegiate Sport: Frequently Asked Questions

This frequently asked questions document is the first of many communications that will be provided to the NCAA membership as a follow-up to Core Principles of Resocialization of Collegiate Sport. We anticipate releasing more documents regarding athletics department considerations and the fall schedule on a regular basis. If you have questions, please address them to SSI@ncaa.org.

Is this document intended to represent formalized best practices or Association-wide policy? In other words, are member schools obligated to follow these guidelines?

Unlike many of the other health and safety materials disseminated by the NCAA Sport Science Institute, this document is not formally endorsed by any third-party organization and does not represent Association-wide policy. Rather, its purpose is to provide broad guidance to the membership based on available evidence regarding COVID-19 and resocialization at both the society and sport level. As our understanding of COVID-19 is rapidly evolving, it is likely that these core principles may be updated.

Importantly, a decision to follow the Core Principles of Resocialization of Collegiate Sport is to be made at the individual school level, with the approval of institutional leadership, and in concert with applicable guidance from local and state public officials with regard to return to campus, return to practice, and return to competition. In the end, institutional and governmental leadership will determine who can participate in, assist with and watch student-athlete practices and competition.

Although this document is meant to serve as guidance, there are several places in the document where the word “must” is used rather than “should.” Why the difference?

The members of the advisory panel believe that when these core principles are followed, certain criteria are essential to, and must be in place for, proper resocialization of sport to occur. This includes the following:

  • There must not be national directives that preclude resocialization.
  • State and local authorities must have a resocialization plan in place.
  • A school’s athletics department must have a resocialization plan in place.
  • Athletics health care providers must have access to personal protective equipment.
  • There must be the ability to work on the local/regional level to assess immunity, provide rapid diagnostic testing, have a surveillance system in place and develop transparent risk analyses.

Although these represent strongly worded statements from the advisory panel, in keeping with the spirit of the document, the overall content is meant to serve as guidance only.

Even though the content of this document mirrors the national guidelines, many states seem to be opening up in a manner that is not completely consistent with the national guidelines. What does this mean for member schools?

As is reflected in the federal guidelines, each state has the authority to implement resocialization in a manner that it deems appropriate. This may mean that the core principles document will not be followed precisely or at all. As the core principles and the national guidelines are meant to provide nonbinding guidance, each member school must operate in accordance with guidance from local and state public officials but will have the flexibility to further develop guidelines that are more consistent with the core principles or even more restrictive than the core principles. The core principles are meant to serve as guidance for the resocialization of sport.

Is testing a necessary component of successfully implementing resocialization of sport?

Universal access to testing is strongly preferred but may not be possible. Importantly, there are two types of tests to consider.

The first type of test is often called point-of-care testing, which means that a rapid diagnostic test can be performed without going to a physician’s office. Such tests can provide results, often within minutes, and, if available, would confirm whether an individual is currently infected with COVID-19. Rapid diagnostic testing provides an opportunity to rapidly isolate, diagnose and quarantine newly infected individuals. Although the infrastructure for rapid diagnostic testing has been steadily increasing, it is not likely that the federal or state governments will be providing such tests at the school level. Therefore, each member school, or each conference, should consider developing relationships within the broader community health care infrastructure that will allow ready access to point-of-care testing.

The second type of test — serological testing — is still in the developmental stages. Theoretically, this type of test will determine whether an individual has antibodies to the coronavirus, and the presence of such antibodies might confirm immunity to future infection or reinfection. The validity of such tests is in the early stages, and there are few that are FDA-approved. Serological testing may be useful in the future to help determine immunity.

Because emerging adults may develop COVID-19 with minimal or no symptoms, point-of-care testing provides a method to mitigate infection spread, and that is one important reason why such testing is an important component of resocialization of sport.

Is contact tracing a necessary component of successfully implementing resocialization of sport?

As with diagnostic testing, contact tracing is preferred. The United States has recently used stay at home and physical distancing policies as the primary means of slowing down the COVID-19 pandemic. Resocializing society and sport assumes such policies have been successful, new infections will be documented going forward and such individuals will be isolated as appropriate. Without contact tracing plans in place, it becomes more difficult to control a possible resurgence of COVID-19.

What type of activities are recommended in Phase One?

Phase One is the beginning of sport resocialization. This can be considered a testing phase, to help determine the readiness of an athletics department to begin working with student-athletes. It is recommended that physical distancing and strict sanitation measures remain in place. Masks are necessary when physical distancing is not possible, and repetitive handling of a shared object such as game balls and other shared equipment should be avoided. It is particularly important to adhere to strict sanitation procedures: Common areas such as gyms and training rooms should remain closed unless strict distancing and sanitation measures can be implemented, and group activities should be limited to 10 or fewer individuals.

What type of activities are recommended in Phase Two?

Phase Two is a continuation of Phase One, but the size of gatherings can be increased to 50 people, as long as physical distancing and sanitation practices remain in place. Masks are still recommended when physical distancing is not possible. This phase allows for more organized group activities, but the sharing of common objects such as game balls and other shared equipment still should be avoided.

What types of activities are recommended in Phase Three?

Phase Three signifies that Phases One and Two have been successfully implemented, meaning that protocols involving personnel, athletes and infrastructure were followed/amended as necessary and federal and/or state gating criteria were satisfied. Careful adherence to infection control remains in place, but it is during Phase Three that repetitive handling of common objects such as game balls and other shared equipment can occur and contact activities can begin. Because of the increase in contact among individuals, it remains important to be aware of the possibility of new infections and the important role that contact tracing will play in those scenarios.

Is the current calendar for fall championship events still in place?

The working assumption of sport resocialization is that the current dates for fall championship events remain in place as scheduled. Governance committees and related staff working groups within each division continue to evaluate potential adjustments to practice and regular season competition schedules. Unless there is a resurgence in the pandemic, other medical and scientific complications, or widespread impracticality that dictates otherwise, the current plan is to continue with the fall championship calendar.

Since we are working with the current fall championship calendar, what considerations are being given to possible modifications in summer practice, preseason and the playing season?

The COVID-19 Playing and Practice Seasons Working Group is an NCAA staff interdisciplinary group that is designed to assist the membership with evaluating challenges and considerations related to various summer, preseason and playing season issues stemming from the pandemic. This group is working closely with CSMAS and other membership committees in all three divisions. The objective of this staff working group and the membership committees that it supports is to move nimbly and provide flexibility about the interpretation and application of legislation, policy and rules, while always properly prioritizing the premise of the health and safety of the student-athlete. In particular, the internal working group is liaising with the Prevention and Performance Subcommittee of CSMAS to solicit health and safety input in the areas of acclimatization, periodization and risk mitigation strategies for musculoskeletal injuries, in each case as they relate to the potential for truncated or otherwise adjusted summer/preseason practice and competition schedules.

How is a determination for “safe competition” made?

The specific path to “safe competition” will vary from campus to campus, depending on geographic, demographic and other risk considerations that are unique to each institution, campus, community and student body. A successfully implemented phased-in strategy, like the one outlined in the core principles document, is one indication that competition may be able to occur safely. However, our understanding of COVID-19 is increasing rapidly, and we anticipate that emerging data and information will allow us to more fully address this question in the future. This could possibly include an adjustment or cancellation of events in response to local or national circumstances.

What about team travel?

Consistent with federal guidelines, the core principles document speaks to non-essential travel as one of the activities that should be reestablished in phases. We anticipate that this question will be addressed in more detail in the future as we develop a better understanding of COVID-19.

How did this document originate?

The first draft of the Core Principles of Resocialization of Collegiate Sport was written by the NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel. The federal Guidelines for Opening Up America Again were published as the NCAA draft document was being reviewed. As there were many similarities between the NCAA draft document and the federal guidelines, the decision was made to merge the content from these two documents.

Was the document reviewed by the NCAA membership before its release and, if so, how?

Yes. NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline presented the document to numerous membership committees and groups before its public release. These included the following:

  • Association-wide: Board of Governors and Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports.
  • Division I: Strategic Vision and Planning Committee, Division I Council, Presidential Forum, Board of Directors, Football Oversight Committee, Competition Oversight Committee, Men’s and Women’s Basketball Oversight Committees, and Collegiate Commissioners Association.
  • Divisions II/III: Management Councils and Presidents Councils.