College athletes in football and basketball can return to campus – where permitted – as soon as June 1, the NCAA Division I Council decided on Wednesday.
The extension of a national moratorium on voluntary campus workouts through the end of June had been considered. Wednesday’s decision comes as a growing number of college leaders have expressed confidence that fall sports will be played in some form as the nation recovers from pandemic shutdowns.
SEC presidents are expected to take up the issue of resuming on-campus workouts in a Friday conference call. They had previously closed all campus athletic facilities until May 31.
States around the country, meanwhile, are in various stages of reopening. At least 18, harder hit by the pandemic, have not reopened at all.
From Notre Dame to LSU and more, a number of schools have announced plans to reopen their campuses for the fall semester and conferences have begun setting up plans for how to play football amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The latest came this week with the Florida State system announcing plans for its 12 schools and more than 420,000 students.
Many questions remain, including specific safety protocols and whether fans would be allowed if games proceed. But the presidents of Miami and Notre Dame said in separate interviews on Wednesday they expect the football season to be played.
Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins told MSNBC he expects to have clarity on how – or if – the football season can happen in the next few weeks.
“The team itself, I feel we can manage that one,” Jenkins said. “Then the question is people in the stands. We have an 85,000-person stadium. Can we get 85,000 people in there?
“That will be a big challenge to do that. But could we get a smaller number – 10,000, 15,000, 20,000? I don’t know.”
Miami President Julio Frenk told CNN he hopes the Hurricanes can play this fall and that safety would be the top priority.
“They will probably play in empty stadiums, like so many other sports,” Frenk said. “But we hope to have a season and we hope to have a winning season.”
Scott Woodward, the athletic director at defending national champion LSU, said his school was preparing to welcome back its athletes.
LSU will offer summer classes online and doesn’t have plans to reopen its campus to the general student population at least until the fall semester.
Florida’s board of governors announced this week that the state university system there planned to reopen campuses in the fall.
Most athletic departments need the revenue generated from football to fund their other sports. Hundreds of schools are reeling financially from the effects of the pandemic. Athletic departments, particularly at smaller schools and in Division II, have already cut a number of sports.
The NCAA this week lowered the minimum and maximum number of games Division II schools are required to play in all sports next year. The move includes a 33% reduction in the minimum number of games needed for sponsorship and championship qualification in most sports.
Under the plan, D-II schools must play at least five football games to maintain NCAA sponsorship and at least seven games to be eligible for playoff consideration. The maximum number of allowable games is 10.
The requirements would return to normal in 2021-22.