NCAA will not impose a uniform return to university sports, says Mark Emmert

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The NCAA will not mandate or oversee a uniform return to college sports, NCAA president Mark Emmert said on Tuesday, leaving decisions about start dates to state officials and university presidents.

University athletics stopped in mid-March, when the NCAA canceled the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring championships, due to the evolving threat of coronavirus pandemic. There is still no timetable for a return, and Emmert said it is not the role of the NCAA to determine one in this case.

“Normally there is an agreed start date for each sport, each season,” Emmert told ESPN, “but under these circumstances, everything was derailed by the pandemic. Nor will conferences be able to do so. Local and national health authorities will decide whether or not you can open and play football with the fans.

“We have already seen the governor of Oregon offer his views on what is likely to happen in September. The Pac-12 may say, “Gee, we’d all like to open on this date,” but whether or not you’re going to ultimately falls to local and state health officials and to the campus itself to decide whether they want to go ahead or not. “

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Earlier on Tuesday, several Pac-12 football coaches expressed support for an NCAA-mandated uniform debut during a video conference with reporters. This followed comments by Penn State coach James Franklin last week that it would be helpful if the NCAA gave national guidelines in addition to what each state and university determines.

Washington coach Jimmy Lake said Tuesday he would prefer all major college teams to start six weeks of season preparation at the same time.

“I think it would be great if the NCAA established a general rule for the whole nation when we started, and I understand that some states may be less affected by this than most. And I’m sure there will be different opinions on this, “said Lake. “I think the NCAA should step in and say, ‘Okay, here’s the date on which everyone can start. “”

Colorado coach Karl Dorrell and Utah’s Kyle Whittingham have supported Lake’s pitch, but Emmert’s latest comments seem to throw water into the idea.

“These are localized decisions,” said Emmert on Tuesday. “Local campuses have to decide: are we opening our doors and getting students to play sports? The NCAA doesn’t make it mandatory any more. The schools themselves must make these choices. “

Emmert said the NCAA’s pandemic decision-making model is similar to that of federal, state, and local governments, and the role of the NCAA is to “provide advice and support.” In March, the NCAA created a COVID-19 advisory committee made up of leading medical, public health, and epidemiology experts and NCAA member schools to guide its response to the coronavirus epidemic. NCAA Surgeon General Dr. Brian Hainline leads the group.

“Brian and his committee will advise the institutions as best they can, but this is advice,” said Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. “They cannot mandate when we return or determine exactly when it happens. They can just give us the best advice they can provide, based on scientists and medical information. “

The only championship that the NCAA does not supervise is that of college football, which determines its winner through the college football playoffs. Bowlsby told ESPN that the football watchdog could play a role in helping to determine a start date.

“The football watchdog will eventually have a role to play in setting a date on the calendar, to say that you can start some sort of return to play on that date, but that may be on three days’ notice,” said Bowlsby. . “It can be on two weeks notice. It may be more than that. It’s a constantly changing environment, and planning around it is a dupe race. “

Emmert said he had a formal call with the 32 Division I commissioners at least once a week, and that he spoke to individual commissioners daily. He said his staff and NCAA member institutions are ready to quickly change any legislation necessary to adapt to possible schedule or rule changes brought on by the pandemic.

“Where we have direct control is of course over our championships, all 90 of these championships, and we will make sure that they are run in a way that is above all safe for students, coaches, the fans, but it plays out, “he said. “We will support the conferences that will make the decisions with the schools on the conference calendar, make the necessary adjustments to the rules, move the seasons so that we can meet all the needs will arise at this time and recognize that this will be played out by different ways in different parts of the country. “

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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