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Championships Safety Overview

The NCAA is committed to the health and safety of all student-athletes, staff and fans. To satisfy this commitment, the Association has collaborated with leading members of the medical and scientific community with expertise in public health and COVID-19 management to establish guidelines for a return to championships.

The return-to-championships guidelines include the following provisions:

  • All rounds of the winter championships and Division I fall championships will be held at predetermined sites.
  • All championships will require a level of testing for Tier 1 and 2 participants before arrival at the championship site.
  • All championships will use a COVID-19 controlled environment for Tier 1 participants.
  • Aside from athletes who are actively competing or training, all accredited individuals and fans must universally mask and physically distance on-site.  
  • COVID-19 testing will be conducted based on travel considerations and each sport’s transmission risk level, as established by resocialization recommendations.
  • All individuals are required to adhere to safety protocols from the time they leave their home destination until they depart the championship site. 
  • Specific venue capacity and local health directives will be key factors in whether fans and family members will be allowed to attend. Site occupancy may be up to 100% capacity.
  • The NCAA’s championship guidelines allow each sport to use the appropriate guidelines for its championship event based on guidance and direction from the NCAA COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group, along with local and state oversight at the site of the preliminary and final rounds of the championship.

Each championship will establish two roles specific to the health and safety of the event: a Team COVID-19 Health Officer selected by every participating team and a Championships Medical Team for every championship event.

  • Team COVID-19 Health Officer: This individual is designated by each team to oversee team communication and management of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases. The COVID-19 Health Officer should be a medical provider or school administrator and serves responsibilities similar to the athletics health care administrator. The officer will oversee self-health checks of all Tier 1 participants, assuring that such checks are performed daily. The officer will consult with the team medical personnel regarding any report of symptoms disclosed in a self-health check. The officer will also be the designated recipient of verbal communication from the championship command center of a confirmed positive COVID-19 test. Following such communication, the officer will speak with the affected individual and will coordinate isolation logistics with the command center, while also serving as a liaison with the school, family and other key stakeholders to assure proper medical coordination, lodging and return travel.
  • Championships Medical Team: Each championship will have a designated Championships Medical Team, consisting of two to four individuals. There will be every effort to assure that one team is assigned for the entire championship. The Championships Medical Team will be utilized for complex decision-making around COVID-19 issues, including but not limited to decisions regarding re-entry into a controlled environment, impact of positive cases on game play, and requests by teams regarding medical decision-making related to COVID-19.  The championships medical team has no authority for decision-making regarding confirmation of COVID-19 tests, but may offer an opinion, when requested by the governing sport committee, championship administrator, local public health authority, or NCAA Chief Medical Officer, regarding complexities of COVID-19-related issues. This group provides recommendations that will be delivered via the NCAA Chief Medical Officer to the final decision-making authorities, which include the local public health authority and/or the championship sport committee as appropriate.

Tiers for remaining championships

All individuals who are part of the remaining NCAA Championships will be identified as in Tier 1, 2 or 3.

  • Tier 1 individuals are those with the highest exposure (e.g., student-athletes, coaches, athletic trainers, physical therapists, medical staff, equipment staff and officials). Physical distancing and masking may be compromised during practice and competition.
  • Tier 2 individuals (e.g., administrators, security, event staff and league staff) are considered at moderate risk to exposure. They may be in proximity to those in Tier 1 but can always maintain physical distancing and masking. They may have limited interaction with Tier 1 individuals only upon approval and assurance that all parties will be physically distanced and masked.
  • Tier 3 individuals (e.g., housekeeping, catering, sanitation, transportation, media and broadcast workers) make up the lowest tier of risk to exposure. They will have no interaction with people in Tier 1 or Tier 2.

Testing strategies for remaining championships

The testing schedule for Tier 1 individuals is outlined in the chart below. Fully vaccinated student-athletes and other Tier 1 individuals with no COVID-19-like symptoms may be exempt from routine testing. Student-athletes and other Tier 1 participants who are not vaccinated must continue to undergo testing at NCAA championships.

If there is evidence of substantial or high transmission in the community, or if there are COVID-19 variants that escape the effect of the vaccine, then testing may need to resume for fully vaccinated individuals. Such decisions will be made in conjunction with local public health authorities and/or federal guidance.

The updated testing guidance also applies to Tier 2 and 3 individuals who may be subject to testing protocols at member schools and championships. If Tier 2 individuals are not fully vaccinated, they must undergo and document a negative PCR test within two days of arrival, or a negative antigen test within one day of arrival, and undergo daily self-health checks. Further testing is based on symptoms. Tier 3 individuals who are not fully vaccinated must undergo daily self-health checks, with testing based on symptoms.

Should state or local authorities require testing of vaccinated individuals, their guidance will supersede this policy and vaccinated individuals will be required to be tested.

Health and Safety Details for all NCAA Championships

The following chart is intended as a resource for member schools to use in coordination with applicable government and related institutional policies and guidelines. Updated information will be added when it becomes available.

Last Updated June 14, 2021

Event

Location

Dates

Pre-event Testing

On-site Testing

SPRING CHAMPIONSHIPS

DI Baseball

TD Ameritrade Park
Omaha, Nebraska

June 19-30

Negative antigen within one day of arrival, or negative PCR within two days of arrival.

Testing upon arrival and quarantine until confirmed negative, then testing every other day while participating on-site.

Return-to-play considerations following a positive test during championships

Some athletes may test positive for COVID-19 just before or during championships and may have an opportunity to compete if they have completed mandatory isolation and recovered and the championship event is ongoing. For this scenario, the NCAA COVID-19 Medical Advisory Group agreed with the following considerations that were developed by the COVID-19 Playing and Practice Season Subcommittee of the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports.

  • Return-to-play decisions are to occur in a manner consistent with the provisions of independent medical care legislation, which provides primary athletics health care providers with unchallengeable autonomous authority to determine medical management and return-to-play decisions related to student-athletes (Division I Constitution 3.2.4.19; Division II Constitution 3.3.4.19; Division III Constitution 3.2.4.21).
  • Consistent with previous feedback, the subcommittee agreed that established best practices related to transition periods apply to this scenario, given the time of inactivity and potential for infection impact.
  • No singular approach (e.g., X-day policy) is appropriate as a substitution for local medical judgement and decision-making. Specifically, there can be significant variability in the clinical impact of COVID-19 infection and the overall physiological readiness of student-athletes, and this variability must be individually assessed by primary athletic health care providers.
  • Following isolation and appropriate medical clearance (e.g., cardiopulmonary evaluation), physical activity should be appropriately calibrated for sport-specific intensity, frequency and duration. In particular, the subcommittee highlighted the need for a demonstrated progression of intensity in a noncompetition setting. 
    • For example, before competition a student-athlete should demonstrate the ability to successfully manage physiological stress comparable to that during competition.
  • In summary, the principles of transition periods with a focus on frequency, duration and intensity of activity continue to apply; further, the variability in the clinical impact of disease and the overall physiological readiness of student-athletes does not support a national standardized policy for return to play. Following isolation and appropriate medical clearance, affected athletes should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and in a sport-specific way, before return to competition.

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