COVID-19's Effect on Collegiate Athletics

COVID -19 and Collegiate Athletics. Lacrosse Player.

This spring won’t be remembered for cutting down the nets at the conclusion of March Madness. It won’t feature fields bustling with lacrosse players beginning their season. Tracks won’t be occupied by sprinters and gyms won’t be filled with athletes training for their upcoming seasons. COVID-19’s effect on the world of collegiate sports has been significant, to say the least. As the question of “what’s next?” continues to arise for professionals working in every collegiate sport, it is important to understand the guidelines from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) that are currently in place. Understanding these guidelines is critical to ensuring your athletic department is keeping athletes safe while providing all of the necessary tools to succeed.

Virtual Workouts for Spring Sports Programs
On March 12, the NCAA canceled the remainder of all winter and spring sports seasons. Notably, this marks the first time the NCAA will not hold its basketball tournament since its inception in 1939. With these unprecedented events, many schools wonder what this means for their programs going forward. While winter sports, unfortunately, are not able to hold team activities, programs that are currently in-season are still permitted to engage in virtual workouts. 
According to the NCAA, spring programs are allowed to hold virtual team activities as long as the following guidelines are met:

  • The workouts/practices take place before the end of the 19‐week declared playing season for such sports. There is flexibility as to when those weeks occur (e.g., may allow for a break in the segment for a week (or more) in which there were no athletically related activities due to actions taken in response to COVID‐19).
  • Student‐athletes do not miss any class time due to virtual workout, practice or meeting.
  • The institution’s designated risk management administrator(s) have approved the leading of any virtual workouts.

The Impact on Fall Sports
Fall sports will almost certainly be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic as well. While the spring/summer months would normally mean scrimmages and practice for many fall sports, guidelines are already in place for when and how preparations can take place for the fall season.
Coaches of fall sports must adhere to these guidelines:

  • If conducting actual “virtual workouts” with physical activity, these workouts/practices must still follow the maximums allowed under Bylaw 17.1.4.4 and 17.10.6.1 (football) including limited to a maximum five‐week period, maximum of 16 dates of such practices/virtual workouts, and not more than four such dates in any one week. 
  • Student‐athletes do not miss any class time due to virtual workout, practice or meeting.
  • The institution’s designated risk management administrator(s) have approved the leading of any virtual workouts.

Strength & Conditioning
Many schools athletic departments feature strength and conditioning programs that athletes utilize to keep their bodies in shape. Strength coaches are permitted to work with student-athletes via virtual workouts for programs that are currently in-season. Athletes in sports not in-season are not permitted to work with strength coaches. 

Surgeries
Outside the issue of practice and team activities is the re-scheduling of canceled surgeries for student-athletes. Many schools have deadlines as to when insurance will cover these surgeries, and the issue of cancellations has raised questions. Most carriers will cover surgeries delayed by COVID-19 and it is important to confirm with your school’s intercollegiate sports insurance carrier when dealing with a cancellation due to COVID-19.

Questions?
As the COVID-19 global health crisis continues to affect all aspects of campus life, it is important for athletic departments to understand their options and continuity plans for their student-athletes. Most insurance carriers will cover modified virtual workouts and delayed surgeries due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The NCAA is also offering an additional year of eligibility to student-athletes of canceled spring sports.

Click here to download our overview of COVID-19 NCAA regulations.

Knowing your options is the key to creating a successful continuity plan. Talk to your trusted RCM&D advisor today if you have any questions regarding your athletic department’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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