NCAA announces no fall championships in 2020; CFP still alive

Ryan Kostecka

With all of the bad news surrounding college athletics these days, it's important to turn the negatives into positives.

So when NCAA president Mark Emmert announced on Thursday evening that there would be no NCAA sanctioned championships of any kind this fall, it became official for the Utes.

Utah knows it won't be missing out on the chance to add more NCAA championships to its resume, and that's about the best take the Utes can hope for at this point.

“We cannot now, at this point, have fall NCAA championships because there’s not enough schools participating,” Emmert said. “The Board of Governors said, ‘If you don’t have half of the schools playing a sport, you can’t have a legitimate championship.’…sadly, tragically, that’s going to be the case this fall, full stop.”

With over 50% of NCAA Division I teams cancelling the fall sports season, the NCAA believes that crowning a champion wouldn't be the right thing to do — and forcing the athletes to play through the pandemic is as morally wrong as it is unsafe.

However, not every sport is affected by the cancellation.

NCAA Division I college football — primarily the ACC, SEC and Big 12 — are still moving forward with a fall sports season and will compete in the College Football Playoff, which is unaffiliated with the NCAA.

“We don’t know right now what the season will bring, but as a committee, we are ready to use the protocol and the expertise of the 13 people who have been charged with selecting the teams,” Gary Barta, the Iowa athletic director who is beginning his first year as CFP committee chair, said in a statement. “The committee’s task is to rank the teams based on what happens on the field. This week gave us a great chance to catch up with the familiar faces and welcome our three new members to the process. If the board and management committee say we are having a CFP, we will be ready.”

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Moving forward, Emmert said the plan for now is to try and figure out a way for the fall sports season to be played in the spring. This gives the fall sport athletes the entire fall and winter to continue to train for that (hopefully) upcoming season, making up for the lost time from this past spring/summer.

"I’ve been talking to all the commissioners in Division I, and there are ways to do this. I’m completely confident that we can figure this out. If schools and conferences want to move forward, let’s do it," Emmert said. "We can use the fall to keep kids healthy, keep them engaged with their coaches and their athletic departments, focus on their academic success, and let them practice and stay ready to play. Then let’s go compete at that time.”

One of the potential ideas being discussed for the fall sports to play anytime in 2021 is playing in a bubble — very similar to what the NBA, WNBA, and MLS and NHL have done with great success. 

But Emmert said that the NCAA will not put at jeopardy the winter and spring sport seasons and championships to make a fall sports one happen. This is primarily due to the fact that the winter sports championships got canceled and the spring sports seasons never really got underway due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Courtesy of Utah Athletics

“We have to give highest priority to the winter and spring sports, because they lost their championships last March. We made that horrible, awful but necessary choice to shut down," Emmert said. "...But then, when we look at it, if we modify the model, which we need to do anyway because of the virus, if we shrink the bracket sizes and do everything in predetermined sites instead of running kids around the country—move to bubble or semi-bubble models—there’s a way to do it. Will it be normal? Of course not…but is it doable? Yeah.”

Moving forward, it's anybody's guess as to how the NCAA will plan out the rest of the athletic seasons. But the idea of a bubble is doable and would probably give off the best chance of success.

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