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NCAA to allow player workouts for football, basketball

The NCAA's national office in Indianapolis, Indiana (Getty Images)

The National Collegiate Athletic Associations’ Division I Council has voted to allow voluntary on-campus activities to resume for football and men’s and women’s basketball starting June 1.

The college sports governing body had previously banned all on-campus athletic activities through May 31 due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, in turn wiping out the entire spring sports season. The latest move to lift the moratorium will allow for individual player workouts, provided they are in accordance with school protocols and local health and safety regulations. 

“We encourage each school to use its discretion to make the best decisions possible for football and basketball student-athletes within the appropriate resocialization framework,” said M. Grace Calhoun, council chair and athletic director at the University of Pennsylvania. “Allowing for voluntary athletics activity acknowledges that reopening our campuses will be an individual decision but should be based on advice from medical experts.”

The council also made several other structural moves, including temporarily waiving minimum attendance requirements for Football Bowl Subdivision schools to retain FBS status, the highest level of college football. Typically, FBS school must average at least 15,000 per game in actual or paid attendance for home football games to retain that FBS status. But that requirement has been paused due to the pandemic.

As for resuming college sports competition itself, that remains an undetermined situation. NCAA president Mark Emmert has repeatedly said that college sports will not return until university campuses reopen. And several major US schools including Louisiana State University and Notre Dame plan to reopen for the fall semester, and conferences around the country are now furiously trying to figure how to proceed with schedules for football and other fall sports.

And there will be undoubtedly be a push to resume football if it all possible, as the revenue generated from that sport helps fund a number of other smaller sports at many colleges. 

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith said he believes the school’s football team could safely play home games in its 105,000-stadium with about 20,000 to 30,000 fans in attendance, using masks and other public health precautions.

“I think we can get there,” Smith said.