Mountain West, NCAA release updates regarding fall 2020 sports

The sun sets on Bulldog Stadium during a homecoming game against Colorado State on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (Armando Carreno/The Collegian)

The Mountain West (MW) Conference announced its revised plan for both the 2020 football season and fall sports on Wednesday afternoon.

In the current plan, all MW sponsored fall sports are scheduled to begin no earlier than the week ending Sept. 26

Specifically for football, the season will consist of eight inter-conference game schedules with an option for each member of the conference to play two non-conference opponents, if they choose to do so.

A date for the MW Football Championship Game has yet to be scheduled, but potential dates include Dec. 5, 12 or 19.

According to the release, various scheduling models for the 2020 MW football season are still under consideration and final version will be announced once completed.

For fall Olympic sports, competition will consist of conference-only play. Schedule alternatives for league play in the respective sports have been developed and will be solidified in the coming weeks.

The women’s soccer and women’s volleyball champions will be determined by regular-season competition, while options for men’s and women’s cross country continue to be reviewed. 

According to the release, all fall competition in the sports of men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, swimming and diving, indoor track and field, softball and baseball have been canceled.

Continuation of workouts/training in these sports would be subject to NCAA legislation and guidance; state, local and campus parameters; and institutional determination.

“The health and welfare of our student-athletes and campus communities continue to be paramount in our decision-making process. The modified fall structure as presently configured allows flexibility and time for our athletic programs to be in the best possible position to play collegiate sports this season, said MW Commissioner Craig Thompson. “There is still a lot of work to be done and many important decisions to be made. Today’s announcement provides a path forward as we navigate the weeks ahead.”

The MW’s revised plan aligns with the requirements announced today by the NCAA Board of Governors. 

Fresno State Football

With the current revision of the MW’s plan for the 2020 season, Fresno State’s football schedule will consist of four conference home games against Air Force (Sept. 26), Hawaii (Oct. 31), San Diego State (Nov. 21) and San Jose State (Nov. 28).

The Bulldogs’ road schedule will include traveling to Colorado State (Oct.3), Nevada (Oct. 24), UNLV (Nov. 7) and Utah State (Nov. 14).

With Fresno State scheduled to face FCS opponent Idaho State on Sept. 5, it is unclear whether that game will take place. 

Fresno State has the option to play two out of conference games if they choose to, but according to MW guidelines fall sports can’t begin before the weekend of Sept. 26.

As of Aug. 5, the Oct. 17 home game against New Mexico State still remains on the schedule. 

NCAA institutes strict requirements

In order for the 2020 fall sports to commence, the NCAA Board of Governors has established specific requirements that directed schools and conferences must follow if they are planning to conduct NCAA fall sports during the preseason, regular season and postseason.

Each division must also determine its ability to meet the set requirements to conduct fall championships.

Although requirements are being put in place, the decision of whether or not the Division I fall 2020 sports season will begin has yet to be decided on. The Board of Governors must determine by Aug. 21 whether their respective fall sports seasons and NCAA championships should occur this year.

On Wednesday, the Division II and III President’s Council announced that they would cancel their fall championships due to operational, logistical and financial challenges presented by the pandemic.

The new requirements focus immensely on the health of the student-athletes, as the board has expressed serious concerns about the high number of COVID-19 cases across the nation. 

Requirements focused at the safety of student-athletes include:

Divisions are being required to determine eligibility accommodations for student-athletes who opt out of participating this fall or whose seasons were cancelled/cut short due to COVID-19 by Aug. 14.

If a player decides to opt out of participating for health reasons, the school must allow student-athletes the ability to opt out, and the individual’s athletics scholarship commitments must be honored by the school.

Alongside player decisions, member schools of the NCAA may not require student-athletes to waive legal rights in regards to COVID-19 as a condition of athletic participation. Also, in conjunction with existing insurance standards, member schools must cover COVID-19 related medical expenses to prevent out-of-pocket expenses for college athletes and their families.

“Our decisions place emphasis where it belongs — on the health and safety of college athletes,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said. “Student-athletes should never feel pressured into playing their sport if they do not believe it is safe to do so. These policies ensure they can make thoughtful, informed decisions about playing this fall.”

If NCAA fall championship or postseason contests are to take place, all member schools must adhere to federal, state and local guidelines related to COVID-19. Further, the conduct of NCAA championships must be in line with federal, state and local guidelines.

Championships must be also conducted within enhanced safety protocols for student-athletes and essential athletic personnel including regular testing, separation of college athletes and essential personnel from all other nonessential personnel and physical distancing and masking policies during all aspects of noncompetition. 

NCAA championships have the choice to use a reduced number of competitors, predetermined sites and, where appropriate, single sites to limit exposure to COVID-19.  

If a fall sports championship is postponed in any division, a decision to conduct that championship at a later date will be based upon the scientific data available at that time regarding COVID-19.

Also, if 50 percent or more eligible teams in a particular sport within a division cancel their fall season, there will be no fall NCAA championship in that sport in that division. 

“First and foremost, we need to make sure we provide a safe environment for college athletes to compete for an opportunity to play in NCAA championships,” Emmert said. “A decision based on the realities in each division will provide clarity for conferences and campuses as they determine how to safely begin the academic year and the return to sports.”

The board based its requirements on guidance from the NCAA’s COVID-19 Advisory Panel established in March, comprising leading medical, public health and epidemiology experts.

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