NCAA recommends COVID-19 testing for contact sports athletes within 72 hours of game
The NCAA says college football players must be tested for COVID-19 at least 72 hours before a game, players at high risk for the coronavirus must be quarantined for 14 days, and everyone on the sidelines must wear a mask.
The nation’s top governing body for college sports released its latest guidelines on Thursday to help member schools navigate competition during the pandemic, and they come as the outlook for actually playing looks bleak. Across the country, the number of COVID-19 cases is on the rise, and many states have slowed reopenings or reinstated restrictions on certain businesses.
“This document presents advice from medical professionals on how to resume college sports if we can create an environment where COVID-19 rates are manageable,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement. . “If there’s going to be college sports in the fall, we need to get a better handle on the pandemic.”
Earlier in the day, the American Athletic Conference announcement it would require all of its schools to test football players for COVID-19 at least 72 hours before competition, and the Power Five conferences should require the same of their schools.
NCAA recommendations establish broader protocols, most of which should be mandated by the Power Five.
Among the highlights:
⋅ Test results must be obtained within 72 hours of competition for athletes participating in so-called high-risk contact sports, such as football, basketball, hockey and lacrosse.
⋅ Face shields should be incorporated into sports where possible.
⋅ Masks must be worn by everyone on a sideline, including when an athlete leaves the field of play to interact with a coach.
⋅ CDC guidelines should be used to determine when individuals can resume activities after testing positive for COVID-19.
⋅ All people exposed at high risk must be quarantined for 14 days.
The endpoint could be crucial in managing a team this season. Just being considered close contact with someone who tests positive could sideline players for two weeks.
The Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences worked together on a minimum standard for testing in their leagues that could be used across all major college football.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 announced last week that they would only play conference games in football and other sports this fall to help minimize potential disruptions caused by COVID-19.
The Big East joined those leagues on Thursday in moving to the conference only for the fall season, which for the basketball-focused league includes men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s cross country, volleyball and field hockey.
Other FBS conferences have yet to decide on programming formats for the upcoming football season, which appears to be in jeopardy due to the growing pandemic.
AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said the testing protocols will apply throughout the regular and bowl seasons. More operational protocols are still being finalized, as are testing protocols for other sports.
“We are committed to meeting or exceeding all guidelines and standards recommended by the NCAA and its member institutions in all fall sports, including football,” Aresco said.
Meanwhile, the Middle East Atlantic Conference on Thursday became the third Division I conference to say it will not have a fall sports season. The MEAC, made up of 11 historically black colleges and universities, has joined other FCS conferences, the Ivy League and the Patriot League, in getting into fall football and other sports, hoping catch up with them in the spring semester if possible.
“Obviously it’s a tough decision because everyone wants to have a fall season for student-athletes, fans and others,” MEAC Commissioner Dennis Thomas said.