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Requirements for Each Division Related to the Conduct of Fall Sports and Championships: FAQs

August 11, 2020

This frequently asked questions document was developed in support of the NCAA Board of Governors’ recent direction related to the membership’s safeguarding of student-athlete well-being, scholarships and eligibility and its corresponding Requirements for Each Division Related to the Conduct of Fall Sports and Championships (Board Requirements).

As with prior NCAA publications, the content of these materials is intended to be interpreted in a manner consistent with guidance published by the federal, state, and local governments and respective health agencies. These materials are not and should not be used as a substitute for medical or legal advice. Rather, they are intended as a resource for member schools to use in coordination with applicable governmental and related institutional policies and guidelines, and they remain subject to further revision as available data and information in this space continue to emerge and evolve.

Questions can be directed to SSI@ncaa.org.

What is the Board of Governors’ authority to impose the Board Requirements on the Association’s membership?

  • The NCAA Board of Governors is authorized to identify and act on behalf of the Association by adopting and implementing policies to resolve core issues and other Association-wide matters. These types of core issues include those stemming from new scientific evidence with anticipated Association-wide impact that are likely to affect a core Association-wide value like student-athlete health and safety.

What is the time period and scope of requirement to follow the Resocialization of Collegiate Sport: Developing Standards for Practice and Competition (Developing Standards)?

  • If competition is going forward:

    The requirement to follow the Developing Standards applies if an institution is allowing its sports teams to engage in any competition (for example, regular season or nontraditional season competitions, scrimmages and practices combining teams from two different institutions) with another institution through at least Oct. 27, the next scheduled meeting of the Board of Governors. In this scenario, testing protocols should align with “in-season” guidance for a given sport’s level of contact risk. While it is recognized that the Developing Standards were previously released as nonmandatory guidance and, as such, are written to include permissive language and modifiers such as “may consider” and “might,” the board intends that they will be considered requirements for institutions that elect to continue with any competition occurring in the fall.

  • If directed practice and conditioning are occurring:

    The Developing Standards document remains guidance if an institution’s student-athletes are not engaged in competition, but the student-athletes remain on campus or are being directed by school personnel if an off-campus, permissible activity is occurring. If directed practices evolve to include personnel from two different institutions, please consult the above scenario.

  • If activities are voluntary only:

    When an institution’s student-athletes are engaged in permissible, voluntary training, it is assumed that testing will be performed in accordance with local/federal mandates and school policy in the same way it is for the broader student population. 

Do the Developing Standards still recommend surveillance testing even where appropriate physical distancing and universal masking can be practiced?

  • The Developing Standards document emphasizes physical distancing/masking and other virus mitigation, but surveillance testing is recommended when those mitigation measures cannot occur.

Why doesn’t the Developing Standards document include testing protocols that are specific to weight training activities?

  • The Developing Standards document was designed to identify and provide guidance related to broad-based COVID-19 risk mitigation in the college athletics space such that its principles may be applicable to and considered with respect to all relevant athletics activities. While the document does not include a sample testing protocol that is specific to weight training activities, the overall content should be considered in any scenario where it may be relevant. In addition, the Developing Standards do include information about various evidence-based resources that have been published by professional organizations in sports medicine and strength and conditioning. These resources may help inform member schools, and institutions are encouraged to leverage all available resources and information as they plan for and engage in these types of activities.

The Developing Standard document’s categorization of sport by contact risk does not appear to consider contact risk related to locker room space and crowding during athletics activities. For example, swimming is listed as a low contact risk sport, but the pool deck and locker rooms are often crowded. Does this need to be accounted for in the sport’s contact risk assessment?

  • The categorization of sport in the Developing Standards document is based on, and limited to, typical proximity and amount of contact between participants, and the ability to implement appropriate masking during practice activities and competitive sport events. It is assumed that each institution will appropriately consider and address these and other infection risks that arise outside these activities to ensure physical distancing, masking and sanitization practices are in place where possible.

The Developing Standards document states that polymerase chain reaction testing is the standard testing method for both baseline and ongoing surveillance testing, and that alternative strategies may need to be considered. Are point-of-care antigen tests, SalivaDirect tests, and isothermal and PCR point-of-care tests acceptable?

  • Yes. At the time of publication and based on then available evidence, PCR testing was identified as the standard testing method for both baseline and ongoing surveillance testing for purposes of the Developing Standards guidance. However, as indicated in the publication, testing strategies will always remain contingent on the availability of ample testing supplies, laboratory capacity, efficient turnaround time and convenient access to testing. Where these factors create challenges around the implementation of PCR-based strategies and as alternative testing technologies evolve, different strategies may need to be considered, including those identified above, and schools are encouraged to collaborate with state and local health officials to determine whether and how to implement specific strategies and which one(s) would be most appropriate for their circumstances. For more information around testing strategies, relevant factors and alternative technologies, please see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s publication: SARS-CoV-2 Testing Strategy: Considerations for Non-Healthcare Workplaces.

If competition among teams is going forward, the Developing Standards document specifies that officials in football and basketball should be tested in accordance with pre-competition standards. What about officials in other sports?

  • The reference to football and basketball officials was premised on, and intended to highlight the higher risk of exposure for officials in these sports due to their likely proximity to the student-athletes during competition and the challenge with masking while performing their contemplated responsibilities. In any other sport where the same type of proximity and masking challenges may exist for officials, the same type of testing and other risk mitigation practices should be considered.

What is the timeline for the divisions to address the Board Requirements related to student-athlete well-being?

  • The Board of Governors has extended the timeline until Aug. 21 for divisions to address the following pieces of the Board Requirements:

    The eligibility accommodations that must be made for student-athletes who opt out of participating this fall or for those whose seasons are canceled or cut short due to COVID-19. College athletes and their families must know what their eligibility status will be before beginning the fall season.

    Coverage of COVID-19-related medical expenses arising from athletics participation to prevent out-of-pocket expenses for college athletes and their families.