NCAA leaves door open for college fall playoffs

Wesley College’s football program has made the NCAA Division III playoffs in 14 of the last 15 seasons but isn’t playing games this fall. Delaware State News file photo

A lot of college teams have been waiting to see if the NCAA will allow national championships to be played this fall.
They finally got their answer on Wednesday morning.

The short answer is, yes, the NCAA has decided there can be official championships for fall sports.

But, the longer answer is that there will be NCAA tournaments only if at least 50 percent of the eligible schools in that sport’s division play their schedule.

Even though the state of Delaware’s college programs have already called off their fall seasons, the ruling still impacts them. If fall playoffs aren’t held, there’s a chance they could happen in the spring.

Delaware’s colleges have all said that they’re considering having fall sports in the spring.

While Wednesday’s decision is far from definitive, it does keep the door open for NCAA fall championships to be played.

“First and foremost, we need to make sure we provide a safe environment for college athletes to compete for an opportunity to play in NCAA championships,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a press release. “A decision based on the realities in each division will provide clarity for conferences and campuses as they determine how to safely begin the academic year and the return to sports.”

Delaware State and Delaware both play football in the NCAA Division I FCS division. Both their conferences, the MEAC and the CAA, are among six FCS leagues that have canceled their fall schedules.

But the seven remaining FCS leagues are slated to hold meetings this week. According to a post by Stats.com, about 70 of the eligible 111 programs are still considering playing football this fall.

Some programs have said they will play in the fall only if national playoffs are held.

The news was different in the NCAA’s small-school divisions where the president’s councils for both Division II and III canceled national championships in all fall sports on Wednesday.

Wesley College’s football program has made the NCAA Division III playoffs in 14 of the last 15 seasons.

The NCAA’s decision does not directly impact college football’s highest division, the FBS, which doesn’t have a playoff system. Connecticut became the first FBS program to cancel its fall schedule on Wednesday.

As part of its announcement, the NCAA also said that championships may use “reduced bracketing, a reduced number of competitors, predetermined sites and, where appropriate, single sites to limit exposure to COVID-19.”

The NCAA also ruled that any athlete who decides not to play in the fall due to coronavirus concerns cannot have their scholarship taken away.