College sports would not take place in the fall if the student body isn't expected to return to campus under the novel coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA president said.
President Mark Emmert said Friday that while universities will be in different places in the fall, many are in "clear agreement" that "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 have to treat the health and well-being of the athletes at least as much as the regular students. And so, if a school doesn't reopen, then they're not going to be playing sports. It's really that simple," Emmert said during an interview with Andy Katz, college basketball correspondent for the NCAA. The 36-minute interview, titled "The Future of College Sports," was posted to the NCAA's Twitter feed.
Emmert said that presidents of the universities he has been in touch with are looking at three options for the fall semester: creating what could best be described as a typical school year with social distancing and proper hygiene practices in place, working on a hybrid plan that would bring students back to campus but keep large lecture classes online, or staying entirely online.
Emmert said everyone is trying to avoid the third option, but it's unlikely there will be a unified plan come August and September.
"It's very unlikely that we'll reach a place sometime this summer where everybody feels equally confident and equally comfortable," he said. "The level of confidence is going to vary from campus to campus."
Major football conference commissioners have said that their goal is for all 130 teams in the U.S., across 41 states, to begin the season at the same time, according to the Associated Press.
Dr. Brian Hainline, the NCAA's chief medical officer, said that the current plan is six weeks of conditioning and practice before playing games. Hainline noted that the plan is not "set in stone."
However, the possibility of a start date that works for everyone appeared practically impossible.
"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 said.
Schools in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision are required by the NCAA to play at least nine games, including five at home, the AP reported. Their season is scheduled to begin around Labor Day weekend in September.
Emmert said the main priority is the health and safety of the student athletes. He admitted that it will be a "very unusual school year" and the NCAA is trying to make the best of it.
"What does it mean if you look at a conference, for example, if a conference has some schools open and some not?" Emmert said. "You can't run a regular schedule if you've got that scenario. How do you adjust all the rules to provide as much flexibility as you possibly can to let student-athletes have a good experience in that season?"