Five months ago, the NCAA responded to the coronavirus pandemic by canceling the postseason competitions for its winter and spring sports.
The organization won’t crown any champions this fall, either.
On Thursday, the NCAA announced that it was axing championships for most of its Division I fall sports. The decision impacts FCS football, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, men’s water polo and field hockey. The NCAA does not have a say in the postseason for FBS football.
"We cannot, at this point, have fall NCAA championships."
NCAA President Mark Emmert discusses the latest developments in fall sports and looks ahead to winter and spring championships.
— NCAA (@NCAA) August 13, 2020
The decision was not surprising. In a press release, NCAA President Mark Emmert explained that there simply aren’t enough schools to host any legitimate competitions. In June, the Ivy League became the first conference to postpone the competitions for its fall sports. In the past few days, conferences ranging from big (Big Ten and PAC-12) to small (Mountain West and Big Sky) have made similar decisions.
“The Board of Governors also said, ‘Look, if you don’t have half of the schools playing a sport, you can’t have a legitimate championship,'” Emmert said. “So we can’t in any Division I NCAA championship sport, which is everything other than FBS football, that goes on in the fall. Sadly, tragically, that’s going to be the case this fall, full-stop.”
The NCAA’s announcement left UT with a hole in its plans for the fall. Texas fields teams in four of the impacted sports — volleyball, women’s soccer and men’s and women’s cross-country — and each of those programs reached the NCAA postseason in 2019.
As of now, Texas can still have those sports compete in Big 12 play. Conference contests, though, would be the only matchups on the calendar. Earlier this week, the Big 12 stated that its volleyball and soccer teams would not participate in non-conference contests.
On Thursday, a Texas spokesperson said that the school was still gathering information and would work with the Big 12 going forward in regards to its affected sports.
Emmert did suggest that the fall sports could possibly compete for championships in the spring. More than half of the Division I conferences in those sports would have to agree to such a plan, however. Emmert additionally conceded that the NCAA’s highest priority in 2021 will be the winter and spring sports since those championships were canceled earlier this year.
But he expressed confidence that a spring schedule for fall sports would work. He suggested that shrinking the size of the postseason fields and using predetermined sites could be options.
“Will it be normal? Or course not, you’ll be playing a fall sport in the spring. Will it create other conflicts and challenges? Of course,” Emmert said. “But is it doable? Yeah, it is doable. We want to do that. We want to make it work for these students.”