The NCAA Sport Science Institute on Thursday released guidelines to aid schools in navigating a return to fall sports, while NCAA president Mark Emmert acknowledged a grim outlook about the coronavirus’ trajectory.
“When we made the extremely difficult decision to cancel last spring’s championships, it was because there was simply no way to conduct them safely,” Emmert said in a prepared statement. “This document lays out the advice of health care professionals as to how to resume college sports if we can achieve an environment where COVID-19 rates are manageable.
“Today, sadly, the data point in the wrong direction. If there is to be college sports in the fall, we need to get a much better handle on the pandemic.”
The NCAA’s guidelines include testing requirements within 72 hours of competition in “high risk” sports such as football, testing strategies for all athletics activities, daily health checks and the use of face coverings and adherence to social distancing guidelines during training, competition and outside of athletics.
“Any recommendation on a pathway toward a safe return to sport will depend on the national trajectory of COVID-19 spread,” NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline said. “The idea of sport resocialization is predicated on a scenario of reduced or flattened infection rates.”
Football players will be subjected to tests within 72 hours of competition. If a PCR test can’t be performed within that window, games will either be postponed, canceled or an alternate method of testing will be agreed upon.
The NCAA’s guidelines come on the same day that the AAC announced its football players must be tested at least 72 hours prior to competition.
“We are committed to meeting or exceeding all guidelines and standards recommended by the NCAA and its member institutions in all fall sports, including football,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said.
Any player who tests positive for COVID-19 will be forced to isolate for 10 days and only allowed to return to action after at least three days without symptoms.
As for players who have been in “high-risk” contact with others, they will have to quarantine for 14 days. High-risk contact is defined as being within six feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes in which one or more individuals are not wearing masks.