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DII Presidents Council approves further COVID-19 protections for student-athletes

Schools cannot reduce or cancel athletics scholarships if student-athletes opt out by Oct. 1.

The Division II Presidents Council on Friday approved protections for student-athletes whose seasons are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new measures include a prohibition on institutions reducing or canceling athletics aid for any student-athlete who, by Oct. 1, chooses not to participate during the 2020-21 academic year.

The deadline was established to help facilitate roster management, personnel coverage and scheduling challenges. Institutions can still choose to maintain student-athletes’ athletics aid if they opt out after Oct. 1.

On Aug. 5, the NCAA Board of Governors directed each division to adjust rules to support student-athletes whose seasons were impacted by COVID-19, similar to decisions that were made for spring sport student-athletes. The Division II Presidents Council, which met virtually Friday, addressed the board’s directives related to student-athlete well-being.

Prior to Friday’s actions, the Division II Presidents Council received feedback from the division’s Management Council, Administrative Committee and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee related to the Board of Governors’ directives. Part of those discussions included reviewing a survey taken by Division II’s committee and council members, as well as the D2 Athletics Directors Association board, D2 Conference Commissioners Association and D2 Conference Commissioners Association Compliance Administrators.

In addition to the athletics aid protection for student-athletes who opt out of countable athletically related activities, the council extended the application of the previously approved extension of eligibility waiver (two semesters/three quarters) to student-athletes who opt out of countable athletically related activities for the 2020-21 academic year. The Oct. 1 deadline does not apply to this protection. Student-athletes remain eligible for the extension regardless of when they choose to opt out.

The Division II Administrative Committee previously took action to allow institutions to self-apply season-of-competition waivers for student-athletes for the 2020-21 academic year, with three criteria. Student-athletes who opt out prior to competition this academic year will retain the use of that season. College athletes who opt out after participating in competition will still be eligible for the season-of-competition wavier if the three criteria are met.

The Division II Presidents Council also approved these legislative recommendations related to the Board of Governors’ directives:

  • Schools would be prohibited from requiring student-athletes to waive their legal rights regarding COVID-19 as a condition of athletics participation. The Board of Governors noted a distinction between such a waiver and permissible items like a pledge document requiring student-athletes to abide by virus mitigation measures statements of personal commitment to health and safety.
  • Permitting the following student-athletes who choose to not enroll for the 2020 fall term to use the missed term exception: A student-athlete in their first academic year in residence and a student-athlete who previously has used the missed term exception once during their collegiate enrollment.
  • Before a student-athlete participates in a fall 2020 term competition, schools are required to:

“Division II is committed to educating student-athletes in a way that allows them to make an informed decision when deciding whether or not to participate in competition in the fall 2020 term. We also want them to understand everything their school is doing to prioritize their health and well-being,” said Sandra Jordan, chancellor at South Carolina Aiken and chair of the Division II Presidents Council. “With the approval of these waivers and legislative changes, each student-athlete has the individual flexibility to determine their participation in competition, should their institution decide to compete this fall, without risking their scholarship or losing eligibility.”