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MM 8.20: Big Ten, NCAA clarify fall sports decisions, next steps

This is the Maryland Minute, a short story followed by a roundup of Terps-related news.

Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament - Second Round Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Big Ten Conference Commissioner Kevin Warren published a letter Wednesday reaffirming the league’s decision to postpone 2020 fall sports.

“We thoroughly understand and deeply value what sports mean to our student-athletes, their families, our coaches and our fans,” Warren said. “The vote by the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors (COP/C) was overwhelmingly in support of postponing fall sports and will not be revisited. The decision was thorough and deliberative, and based on sound feedback, guidance and advice from medical experts.”

Since the announcement that fall sports were postponed on August 11, little had been revealed about what went into the decision. The letter specifically stated primary factors included:

  • Transmission rates continue to rise at an alarming rate with little indication from medical experts that our campuses, communities or country could gain control of the spread of the virus prior to the start of competition.
  • As our teams were ramping up for more intense practices, many of our medical staffs did not think the interventions we had planned would be adequate to decrease the potential spread even with very regular testing.
  • As the general student body comes back to campus, spread to student-athletes could reintroduce infection into our athletics community.
  • There is simply too much we do not know about the virus, recovery from infection, and longer-term effects. While the data on cardiomyopathy is preliminary and incomplete, the uncertain risk was unacceptable at this time.
  • Concerns surrounding contact tracing still exist, including the inability to social distance in contact sports pursuant to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. While risk mitigation processes (e.g., physical distancing, face coverings, proper hygiene, etc.) can be implemented across campus for the student body population, it became clear those processes could not be fully implemented in contact sports.
  • With the start of full-contact practices and competitions, it became increasingly clear that contact tracing and quarantining would risk frequent and significant disruptions to the practice and competition calendar.
  • Accurate and widely available rapid testing may help mitigate those concerns, but access to accurate tests is currently limited.
  • Significant concerns also exist regarding the testing supply chain, generally, for many of our institutions.

While doubling down on the decision to postpone, the Big Ten is strategize how to play in a safe manner, with the aim towards the winter or spring.

The NCAA Division I Council also recommended that fall championships be moved to the spring season to accommodate leagues that decided to postpone.

Further recommendations geared towards protecting athletes include the following, as quoted directly from the release:

  • Schools should be prohibited from requiring student-athletes to waive legal rights regarding COVID-19 as a condition of athletics participation.
  • Schools should be prohibited from canceling or reducing athletics scholarships if a college athlete in any sport opts not to participate due to COVID-19.
  • That student-athletes who do not enroll full time during the 2020 fall term be provided some flexibility in the progress-toward-degree requirements that must be met for eligibility in future terms.
  • The financial aid of fall sport senior student-athletes who take advantage of the additional year of eligibility and extended clock should not count against team limits in 2021-22.
  • Schools should be required to:
    — Review current insurance coverage for all student-athletes who are competing this fall.
    — Inform student-athletes about the risk classification of their sport as outlined in the Resocialization of Collegiate Sport document.
    — Inform student-athletes how the mandates in the Resocialization of Collegiate Sport document are being met at their campus

In other news

Maryland men’s basketball received a commitment from four-star 2021 small forward James Graham on Wednesday.

Maryland football teased its young quarterback duo.

Maryland women’s lacrosse alumni Taylor Cummings spoke out about her road to self-acceptance.

Maryland men’s lacrosse’s dominance over the past five seasons cannot be overlooked.

Four former Maryland men’s lacrosse players were also ranked in the top-20 players of the Premier Lacrosse League by Inside Lacrosse.