Saturday, June 6, 2020

NCAA Division I Council to allow voluntary team activities starting June 1

May 20, 2020
A player holds his helmet at the Green and White game at Spartan Stadium on April 13, 2019. The green team defeated the white team 42-26.
A player holds his helmet at the Green and White game at Spartan Stadium on April 13, 2019. The green team defeated the white team 42-26. —

The NCAA Division I Council voted on Wednesday to allow voluntary on-campus athletic activities for football and men’s and women’s basketball starting on June 1. The council followed that same action on Friday for the other 22 sports in Division I.

These stories broke after the Big Ten Conference announced in early May it would extend its suspension of all organized team activities through June 1 and would reevaluate again at that time.

Football and basketball are the only two sports to be included under this vote, while other sports such as hockey and soccer will likely be voted on as early as next week, according to a report from Yahoo Sports.  

Football and basketball were the only two sports included under the council's Wednesday vote, and just two days later, it voted to include other NCAA Division I sports as well. The vote approved by the council on Friday will allow sports such as hockey, soccer and other non-revenue sports to hold on-campus voluntary team activities.

However, this vote does not necessarily mean a full-fledged return to team activities on June 1, as schools will still have to operate under local, state and federal guidelines on the size of gatherings. In addition, the vote only allows for “voluntary” team activities, meaning coaches and athletic departments cannot mandate their athletes return to practice. 

It is also unclear at this time whether or not players would be tested upon entry if voluntary team activities began to commence on June 1. According to the report, there will be no NCAA-mandated testing policy for teams beginning to hold these activities. 

While this decision is a big step for a return to college sports, there are still many hurdles that remain in the way for the fall. One of those is whether or not students will be on campuses this fall.

Michigan State University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. announced that his administration is considering “multiple scenarios” in the way that classes will be taught in the fall, such as in-person classes, online classes, or a hybrid of both types of instruction. 

Other schools like Central Michigan University — which on Tuesday cut its men's track and field program due to university revenue losses during the coronavirus pandemic — have already announced that they will hold in-person instruction in the fall, while other schools like the California State University system have announced they will hold online instruction. 

Having student athletes return to campus with no other students returning would be a hard sell for the NCAA, who has preached an amateurism model in the last few years in a battle with student athletes over issues of paying student athletes and the Fair Pay to Play Act.

"College athletes are college students, and you can't have college sports if you don't have college (campuses) open and having students on them," NCAA President Mark Emmert said on a video via Twitter. "You don't want to ever put student-athletes at greater risk than the rest of the student body." 

Emmert has also said the NCAA will not issue a blanket restart for sports to begin and rather leave it up to the health experts and university presidents. 

"Normally, there's an agreed-upon start date for every sport, every season," Emmert told ESPN. "But under these circumstances, now that's all been derailed by the pandemic. It won't be the conferences that can do that either. It will be the local and state health officials that say whether or not you can open and play football with fans." 

As it stands, MSU football is set to take the field on Sept. 5 against Northwestern with other fall sports starting around the same time. A lot of questions remain for the upcoming fall season of sports and as those questions get answered, there will be much more clarity for the winter and spring sports, which will also be allowed to hold voluntary athletic activities starting June 1. 

Editor's note: This story was updated on May 22 to include the NCAA Division I Council's ruling that all Division I sports will be able to hold voluntary on-campus athletic activities.

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