With a brand new season of college football — and yes, other fall sports, too — quickly approaching, the NCAA has released new guidance for the upcoming fall season for both practices and games as Covid-19 continues to impact our daily lives.
The organization’s document — the 2021 Fall Training and Competition document — highlights “testing, quartine, isolation, and other athletic and nonathletic activity consideration” for those that are vaccinated and unvaccinated that fall under Tier 1, which include student-athletes, coaches, athletic trainers, equipment staff, and officials.
“Current vaccination rates remain inadequate to provide community-level immunity,” NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline said in a statement. “It is essential that member schools work in concert with federal, state, and local public health officials to develop Covid-19 prevention and management strategies that make sense for them.”
The biggest concern for the NCAA is the delta variant, which is “highly transmissible,” but can also be contracted by fully vaccinated individuals that can shed the virus to others around them.
Today’s guidance will certainly impact those who are vaccinated differently from those who have yet to receive a shot. And one of those differences revolves around testing as those who are unvaccinated will need to test three times per week while vaccinated student-athletes, coaches, and team representatives won’t need to unless they are “symptomatic, or based on a risk assessment of a documented close contact with Covid-19.”
As of today, we’re 24 days away from “Week 0” of the 2021 college football season and 31 days away from the opening weekend.
Happy Monday, everyone — as usual, we hope this post (and all posts) find everyone doing well while having a great start to the workweek.
Today, we are excited to share a brand new Noontime Sports Podcast featuring Brett Lorin, who is the host and producer of Too Tall Sports Podcast. Lorin is also a former professional baseball player that was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the fifth round of the 2008 Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft.
Lorin and host (and producer) Matt Noonan discuss his baseball career to transitioning into content creation with his podcast — fans of the show can also watch episodes on the Too Tall Sports Podcast’s YouTube channel. The duo also chats about Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL), which continues to be a major headline in college athletics.
“I think if you can monetize yourself in college, you should be able to,” Lorin said, when asked about student-athletes making money off their name, image, and likeness. “(One) hundred percent.”
Lorin was a pitcher for both the California State University, Long Beach, and University of Arizona baseball programs.
After much speculation, the Big Ten Conference has announced its upcoming fall sports season, including football, has been postponed.
Today’s announcement also means there will be no regular season or conference championships and tournaments.
According to this afternoon’s release, which can be seen on the conference’s website, the league came to a decision to postpone the fall sports season through the advice they received from both the Big Ten Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee.
“Our primary responsibility is to make the best possible decisions in the interest of our students, faculty, and staff,” said Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro, who chairs the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors.
Added Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren, “The mental and physical health and welfare of our student-athletes has been at the center of every decision we have made regarding the ability to proceed forward.”
While today’s news certainly derails hopes of seeing the conference’s 14 teams play football this year, it also means there will be no cross-country, field hockey, soccer, or volleyball.
As noted at the end of today’s announcement, “The Big Ten Conference will continue to evaluate a number of options regarding these sports, including the possibility of competition in the spring.”
No decisions have been made about winter or spring sports.
The University of Massachusetts joined a growing list of FBS teams that will not play football this season.
As noted in a statement from Ryan Bamford, who is the school’s athletic director, “After consulting with the university, state, and public health officials, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 UMass football season.”
Bamford stressed that the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic “posed too great of a risk” for not just the student-athletes, but everyone involved with the Minuteman’s program.
Second-year coach Walt Bell admitted he was “absolutely heartbroken” for both the current and past members of the program, along with the alumni and fanbase, too, but was extremely appreciative of everyone that helped keep everyone safe once the team arrived at campus earlier this summer.
“I would like to give an unbelievable amount of gratitude to our medical professionals, our administration, our campus, our athletic training staff, and our operations staff for creating one of the safest environments in college football,” said Bell. “The testing, the protocols, the risk mitigation, and the execution have been incredible.”
While it is uncertain if and when things with the ongoing coronavirus will settle down, Bamford did provide the program, along with all fall sports teams with some hope to play games next spring.
“We remain hopeful and fully intended to conduct a competitive schedule for our fall sports in the 2021 spring semester,” said Bamford.
Last night – Sunday, August 9, to be exact – we learned the Big Ten conference, which met twice this weekend, is leaning toward canceling its football season. And if football is canceled, it is likely both the presidents and chancellors of each institution would pull the plug on other fall sports, too.
An announcement from the Big Ten is expected if not today definitely this week, and pending the league’s final decision on the 2020 fall sports season, it is possible other Power 5 conferences such as the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and Pacific-12 Conference (Pac-12) could cancel their respective fall sports seasons or perhaps make tweaks to their newly updated schedules.
While nothing official has been announced by the Big Ten or any Power 5 conference as of this morning, Bob Bowlsby, who is the commissioner of the Big 12, did provide some insight into what leagues might take into consideration when deciding to cancel games this fall: players enduring longlasting cardiac issues from contracting the coronavirus (Covid-19) that may prohibit them from future competition.
As noted in a recent story from Sports Illustrated, team doctors and physicians are worried that youth athletes, who are healthy and may be asymptomatic, could develop life-long heart problems, including myocardial, which causes damage to the heart muscle. It appears this issue is just one of many both presidents and chancellors are grappling with when it comes to making a decision on the 2020 fall sports season.
Here in New England, it appears as if both Boston College and the University of Massachusetts will play football this fall, but it is not a given that either program will play or perhaps complete its entire schedule. It is possible, pending future announcements from the Big Ten and other leagues, that both seasons could be canceled or punted to next spring.
Merrimack College, which competes in the Northeastern Conference (NEC), will have to wait and see if their football team will be allowed to play games this fall. According to last month’s update, the NEC President’s council will reconvene on Thursday, October 1 to assess the ongoing pandemic and see if it’s possible to provide not just the Warriors, but every team in the conference with some form of competition.
Other New England schools, including those that compete at both the Division II and III levels, will not be competing this fall, despite some athletic departments still not announcing that fall sports are canceled. But it is likely those announcements could come if not this week later this month once students return to campus.
At the end of the day, these are not easy decisions, so fans and football fanatics need to respect whatever is announced either today or over the next few days. Yes, no college football in the fall would seem strange, but if these decisions result in keeping the student-athletes safe, along with everyone else involved with college athletics safe and healthy, then we should applaud both the presidents and chancellors for making the right call.