Big 12 Commissioner: Athletes Can Take Classes Online and Still Participate in Sports

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The return of college sports is certainly in question for the fall as the United States battles the COVID-19 crisis, and there's no guarantee there are students on campuses at all to begin the 2020-21 school year. Would no students on campus force college athletics to come to a halt? There appears to be some disagreement among conference commissioners.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told Sports Illustrated he doesn't "think it's a problem," to have college athletics as long as classes are conducted online. 

"If in the main students are taking classes online, I don't think it's a problem that student athletes take classes online and participate in athletics," Bowlsby told Sports Illustrated's Pat Forde and Ross Dellenger. "However, if the university is closed and nobody is taking classes in-person or online in any way, I don't think you can have sports because these are student athletes and they need to be enrolled and going to college to participate in the program."

Bowlsby's view isn't shared by all of his peers. Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said he "can't see doing it," a sentiment shared by Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott.

"A lot of universities have declared their intention to open up and have students on campus, which for me and a lot of my colleagues across the country has been a gating issue," Scott said. "We’ve felt that if our campuses are uncomfortable having students back on campus, we could not envision having student athletes back on campus competing." 

Conferences have not altered their 2020 schedules as of Thursday. Any decision on changing the 2020 season will be made in the next "five to seven weeks," per Forde and Dellenger.