Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Division III Had No Problem Shutting Down Championships. What’s the Hold-Up for D1? [Updated]

Division III squads Johns Hopkins and Worcester Polytechnic square off in a closed-door game due to coronavirus.
Division III squads Johns Hopkins and Worcester Polytechnic square off in a closed-door game due to coronavirus.
Photo: Getty

The NCAA Division III Presidents Council’s decision, Wednesday, to cancel all fall sports championships for the 2020-21 school year in what could foreshadow the fate of larger divisions.

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In a statement, the NCAA said:

“With the health and safety of the division’s student-athletes, coaches, athletics administrators and communities as its priority, the Division III Presidents Council made the decision Wednesday to cancel the championships due to the COVID-19 pandemic and related administrative and financial challenges,” the Council said in a statement.

“The Board of Governors directed each division to make a decision on its fall sport championships. It also agreed to require all members institutions to apply the resocialization principles to fall sports and set a 50 percent sponsorship threshold for a fall sport championship to be conducted.

“Looking at the health and safety challenges we face this fall during this unprecedented time, we had to make this tough decision to cancel championships for fall sports this academic year in the best interest of our student-athlete and member institutions,” said Tori Murden McClure, chair of the Presidents Council and president at Spalding. “Our Championships Committee reviewed the financial and logistical ramifications if Division III fall sports championships were conducted in the spring and found it was logistically untenable and financially prohibitive. Our Management Council reached the same conclusion. Moving forward, we will try to maximize the championships experience for our winter and spring sport student-athletes, who unfortunately were short-changed last academic year.”

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Update: Later Wednesday, Division II opted to cancel all fall sports putting more pressure on Division I to cancel fall championships, igniting a trickle down affect but the ball is in the players’ court now. The pressure is on the NCAA Division I Council. If the players hold out they will force their hand.

It’s been a busy week for fall college athletes, specifically football players. The consistent drip of news — both from the NCAA’s governing body and from the players standing up for their right to opt out of the season and make decicions in their own best interest — has filled social media feeds.

Potential NFL first-round picks like Virginia Tech’s cornerback, Caleb Farley, made the tough decision last week to opt out of the season after watching three years ago as his mother lost her battle with cancer. He made it clear he didn’t want to jeopardize himself or any other family members’ health during this pandemic. Farley so far is one of six Division I players opting out of the season with many more players from the PAC-12 and Big Ten making it clear if their demands aren’t met, they too will sit this season out.

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The NCAA has since issued a statement requiring all divisions to come up with a safeguard plan for fall sports championships by August 21st, with NCAA President Mark Emmert saying, “Our decisions place emphasis where it belongs — on the health and safety of college athletes.”

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We know this is the politically correct statement Emmert is feeding us. Major League Baseball, even with the overwhelming physical distancing ability of its sport, has not fended off the virus. I’m sure the NCAA has kept a close eye on what is happening there. No way you can have a football season during this pandemic.

Which brings me to the question: If Division III has arrived at cancelling all fall sports championships, what is taking Division I so long to do the same? They’ve had a COVID-19 outbreak in at least one program among all Power Five conferences. Whole programs like Michigan State, and Rutgers are in quarantine because the source of the outbreak is unknown.

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So what is it?

Under any other circumstance we’d not be wondering the answer to this question — because Division III has figured it out, so why can’t the folks over Division I fall in line?

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The answer is less than an arms length away — monetary implications. Right now, the Division I Presidents Council are likely putting their heads together and crunching the numbers. To be clear this probably began over the weekend when a study came out laying the path of just how much money Division I college athletes are being screwed out of annually, in lieu of a 47/50 revenue-sharing model.

That study likely made the representatives of Division I’s heads explode, but in the event that wasn’t enough — two days after the study was released, PAC-12 players came out with the “We Are United” alliance, choosing to hold out on the 2020 season until their demands are met. And just to give a sense of the things they are asking for:

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  • “Player-approved health and safety standards enforced by a 3rd party selected by players to address COVID-19 and serious injury, abuse and death”
  • “50% of each sport’s total conference revenue distributed evenly among athletes in their respective sport”
  • “End lavish facility expenditures and use some endowment funds to preserve all sports”
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An example was given: “Stanford University should reinstate all sports discontinued by tapping into their 27.7 billion dollar endowment.”

In that recent study it is estimated the average Power Five Division I football player would make north of one million dollars if he played at the university for four years. That study bursted any doubt surrounding the lavish lifestyles of college coaches, administrators, and NCAA governing body officials at the expense of the collateral damage some athletes face every year.

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So it’s pretty clear, Division III and Division II don’t have nearly this amount of money wrapped up in the play of college football or any of its other athletics. So making a rational decision without the weighing “what ifs” about their bottom line is easy. The students and faculty are put first.

In the case of Division I, it’s looking more and more likely that the players will have to take this into their own hands, because if it’s up to the NCAA they could care less about the suffering they will face. Greed is being served up as their main course.

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