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Emmert: Colleges need to open before NCAA sports resume

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Universities must open this fall before their athletic competitions can resume, according to NCAA President Mark Emmert, making a uniform launch to the fall college sports season highly unlikely.

In a Friday-night Twitter discussion, Emmert and NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline discussed the current state of college athletics in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The big takeaway: the NCAA is willing to be flexible about adjusting schedules to accommodate differing opening dates for member school, but the safety and health of student-athletes (which includes adequate time for student-athletes to prepare for competitive play) must come first. That means there is still plenty unsettled about the fall college sports season. From USA Today:

As for the appropriate academic environment for sports to begin, Emmert said: “College athletes are college students, and you can’t have college sports if you don’t have college (campuses) open and having students on them. You don’t want to ever put student-athletes at greater risk than the rest of the student body.”

In Division I, he said, “all of the commissioners and every president that I’ve talked to is in clear agreement: If you don’t have students on campus, you don’t have student-athletes on campus.

“That doesn’t mean it has to be up and running in the full normal model, but you’ve got to treat the health and well-being of the athletes at least as much as the regular students. So if a school doesn’t reopen, then they’re not going to be playing sports. It’s really that simple.”

We’ve seen a wide variance among universities regarding plans to reopen campuses; the likes of Purdue, Texas Tech, and Rice plan on opening in the fall, but plenty of other university presidents, such as University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel, who are more cautious in their approach to student health. What seems to be happening: very few university presidents are willing to announce plans as of now. And while Emmert may want to college campuses reopen before college sports return, several conference commissioners do not see that as a requirement: “Going to class in an online session is satisfactory,” said Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. “There’s room for that to happen. School has to be in session, student-athletes have to be going to class.”

“We aren’t going to have one national time when everyone can start preseason so there’s going to be a little bit of inequity there,” Hainline told AP. “The most important thing is what’s going to be the minimum amount of time necessary that you have to be in preseason, for example, before you can start football.”

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