Football oversight committee asks NCAA board for time on fall sports

The NCAA Football Oversight Committee, along with a majority of the Collegiate Commissioners Association, which includes 32 Division I conferences, has expressed strong opposition to the possibility that the NCAA's board of governors will consider canceling or postponing fall sports championships during its Friday meeting.

In a July 21 letter addressed to the NCAA board of governors and shared with ESPN on Wednesday, Football Oversight Committee chair Shane Lyons wrote: "We are simply requesting that the Board of Governors not make an immediate decision on the outcome of fall championships, so that conferences and schools may have ample latitude to continue to evaluate the viability of playing football this fall."

The NCAA's board of governors, which comprises mainly university presidents representing all three divisions, has the authority to cancel or postpone NCAA fall championships for sports such as soccer, women's volleyball and FCS football. The regular-season games and schedules, though, are at the discretion of the individual schools or their conferences.

Lyons said the FOC would also like clarification as to whether the board is considering canceling fall championships entirely, or postponing them to the spring -- and what that would do to the FCS football championship, and how it would impact the bowl system.

There is also the question of optics, he said.

"Yes, you can continue to have the football games and all that," Lyons said, "but if you're not playing other sports, optically, what does that look like? We're trying to continue to play football and have our fall sports, but everybody's striving to be in the NCAA championships. If you don't have that, that's the big thing you're playing for. So what happens? Do you still play a regular season?"

The elephant in the room is that it would ultimately lead to the cancellation of fall sports -- all of them.

"Our hope is that it's just discussion only, and they will delay any type of decisions later on in August, and we'll see what it looks like at that time," Lyons said. "That's our hope, to not have a decision made this week, that we delay it for several more weeks and see where we're at at that point."

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told ESPN a decision to cancel fall championships now would have "a profound impact" on everything else.

"Volleyball kids wouldn't have anything to play for," Bowlsby said. "FCS football wouldn't have a championship. The other thing is, we're talking about November and December championships. How do you cancel championships and continue to play basketball or continue to have winter sports that start in late October and early November? I just think it's too early to make sound decisions on that."

Lyons said the plea for patience was unanimous among the members of the FOC, who met last Thursday. He said the group learned there had been a previous board meeting about fall championships that some were aware of and others weren't.

"There's a concern that there's still time to make decisions," said Lyons, also West Virginia's athletic director. "What impact would that have not only on the FBS institutions but also the FCS institutions in canceling that championship. To do that on July 24, we feel there's time to be patient and take baby steps as we go through this process, we're asking don't rush into any big decision at that time."

Ohio Valley Conference commissioner Beth DeBauche, who is the president of the CCA, said 27 of the 32 Division I conferences that comprise the group have agreed to also send a letter to the NCAA's board of governors either Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

"The general thoughts of the letter ... is basically a request to be deliberate in the approach," she said, "to let more time pass to appreciate the circumstances around us, and also to let the conferences conclude their work with regard to the regular season, to make sure there's more of a sequence in the decision-making process.

"Given that we have done a great deal of work, we want to see that work continue," she said. "We would like to be able to make those decisions without having anything preemptive in any way by a championship decision or any unforeseen consequences come as a result of this decision."

The NCAA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Multiple requests for comment from members of the board of governors were either declined or unanswered Wednesday.

While the SEC and ACC have said the end of the month could be a critical point in starting to determine what the season might look like and if it can start on time, Bowlsby has maintained that he would like to wait until the players are wearing helmets and pads to further evaluate what that experience is like before making any major decisions.

Now that the board of governors has added a twist to the ongoing conversation surrounding the return of college sports in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it's possible the other FBS commissioners wait until after the board's Aug. 4 meeting to make any decisions.

"I just think it's too early to make any precise prediction on what November and December is going to be like from a virus standpoint," Bowlsby said. "For many of the same reasons we're continuing to wait and watch and learn, I think that's what the board ought to do with championships. To make that kind of a decision this far ahead of time, I just think it's very difficult."