NCAA nixes most fall championships

Juan Perez Jr.
·2 min read

The NCAA’s Division I fall championships cannot occur this year, association president Mark Emmert said Thursday.

The announcement brings much of collegiate athletics to a halt in 2020, except what is left of topflight football. The country’s biggest college volleyball, cross country and soccer teams now have no title for which to compete this year. A lower level of Division I football is also affected, but not the marquee College Football Playoff that is rapidly losing its biggest participants as they drop out of competition this season.

Emmert did endorse the idea of moving fall title games into the winter and spring seasons, a major change. Still, he said the “highest priority” should go to winter and spring sports that already had championship seasons halted earlier this year as the pandemic first intensified.

That includes March Madness basketball tournaments — an essential moneymaker for the NCAA — as well as the College World Series baseball and softball contests, Frozen Four hockey competition and other playoffs.

Emmert also backed changes that would direct schools to cloister athletes in so-called “bubble” environments at smaller-sized tournaments in single sites across the country. Emmert noted these changes may likely include major calendar alternations and the renegotiation of media contracts.

“I'm completely confident that we can figure this out,” Emmert said. “Will it create other conflicts and challenges? Of course. But is it doable? Yeah, it is doable.”

A top association medical adviser said Thursday that the U.S. should first control spread of the coronavirus before making plans for preserving college athletics.

The NCAA’s governing board last week said fall championships it directly controls will not occur if at least half of eligible teams in a particular sport and division cancel or postpone their fall season.

Athletes at hundreds of colleges and universities have already seen their fall 2020 seasons cut short after the NCAA's second- and third-tier divisions canceled their postseason competitions.

“So, sadly, tragically, that's going to be the case this fall, you know, full stop,” Emmert said.