Mark Emmert Says Shortened Fall Sports Schedule Could be 'Very Helpful' Amid Pandemic

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NCAA president Mark Emmert expressed his concerns about the upcoming fall sports schedule and why he thinks a delayed start and shortened number of games could be "very helpful" amid the coronavirus pandemic.

During an interview with ESPN's Heather Dinich, Emmert said observing how professional sports handle their return-to-play plans has provided the NCAA with plenty of insight. 

"We get to see how the testing protocols emerge and how that can be more effective, especially if we can get antigen testing going, for keeping track of the virus on campuses. The fact a delay could provide us with time to do all that could be very, very useful.

"Also, the move to a smaller number of games can be really helpful because you've got bigger breaks between games then, and you could provide flexibility around schedules," he said. " ...If you have to quarantine a team or a big chunk of a team, you've got time to do that and you've got time to adjust. ...I think having fewer contests and doing them over a delayed period of time could be very, very helpful."

Emmert's comments come before the ACC is expected to reach a decision this week on the conference's fall schedule. The ACC's announcement could sway the SEC and Big 12's decisions on the matter. Officials from both conferences remain interested in possibly keeping a 12-game schedule, while the Big Ten and Pac-12 have already announced they will only play in-conference games.

As questions arise if sports will even be played this fall, Emmert admitted recent spikes in some states in recent weeks need to decline to make competition feel safer.

"We continue to see in various areas spikes both in terms of viral spread, in terms of the percent of tests that are coming back positive, and hospitalizations and tragically even deaths," he said. "In those areas where we know we have a lot of competition, a lot of sports going on, we need to see movement in the right direction and right now, it's starting to plateau in some areas, but it's not headed in the right direction."

Several schools have already been forced to temporarily suspend workouts after players have tested positive for the coronavirus. Football programs like Houston and Michigan State are among a dozen FBS teams to face this issue. Playing sports this fall could present numerous challenges over traveling, testing availability and contact tracing.