NCAA Says Colleges Must Give Athletes a Chance to Opt Out

The NCAA Board of Governors issuedrequirements U.S. schools and conferences must meet if they want to conduct fall sports amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

All student-athletes must be allowed to opt out of participating because of concerns about contracting the coronavirus, the NCAA said Wednesday in a statement. If an athlete does so, his or her athletics scholarship must be honored by the school.

“Student-athletes should never feel pressured into playing their sport if they do not believe it is safe to do so,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in the statement. “These policies ensure they can make thoughtful, informed decisions about playing this fall.”

Colleges and conferences have been racing to firm up decisions with seasons scheduled to begin next month. Divisions must decide by Aug. 21 if their fall sports seasons and NCAA championships should occur this year, according to the board.

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Member schools aren’t allowed to require student-athletes to waive their legal rights related to Covid-19 as a condition of athletics participation, the NCAA said in the statement. A system will be set up that allows alleged failures to be reported.

Ohio State University is among the schools that required its players to sign a document -- called theBuckeye Pledge -- acknowledging their responsibilities for maintaining proper safety protocols prior to returning to workouts, the Columbus Dispatchreported in June.

The pledge isn’t a legal waiver, spokesman Jerry Emig said in an emailed statement. It was created to enhance safety and acknowledges “the partnership and accountability student-athletes have in their own health and well-being, along with the university’s role,” Emig said.

A handful of Division I conferences have already announced they will not be competing in the upcoming semester, including the Ivy League, the Atlantic 10 and the Patriot League. Some leagues remain hopeful traditional fall sports can be played later in the year, while others are setting up seasons comprising mainly conference games.

— With assistance by Brandon Kochkodin

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