The NCAA Sport Science Institute released its newest guidelines for collegiate athletes returning to play from the COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, recommending daily health checks, implementation of face coverings and social distancing and testing strategies.
But the NCAA also acknowledged that it alone will not make the decision about whether or not college sports will be played this fall.
“When we made the extremely difficult decision to cancel last spring’s championships it was because there was simply no way to conduct them safely,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a press release. “This document lays out the advice of health care professionals as to how to resume college sports if we can achieve an environment where COVID-19 rates are manageable.”
The institute recommends physical distancing and wearing of face coverings or face shields, whenever feasible, which universal mask wearing on the sidelines.
Furthermore, PCR testing and the results of those tests should be obtained 72 hours before competition in high-risk contact sports.
When possible, practices and training are recommended to take place outdoors.
But overall, the largest part of the decision about whether or not colleges will return to sports will be made by the general public. When the NCAA began its return-to-play plans in late April, the disease was on a far better track than it stands at the middle of July.
“Today, sadly, the data point in the wrong direction,” Emmert said. “If there is to be college sports in the fall, we need to get a much better handle on the pandemic.”