By KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — The NCAA has stepped up to protect student-athletes’ welfare amid the ongoing pandemic as it pertains to scholarships, eligibility and player health for the 2020 fall season.
The NCAA Board of Governors announced on Wednesday that athletes who opt out of the 2020 season will retain full scholarships.
“All student-athletes must be allowed to opt out of participation due to concerns about contracting COVID-19,” the NCAA said. “If a college athlete chooses to opt out, that individual’s athletics scholarship commitment must be honored by the college or university.”
All schools and conferences must follow the NCAA’s newly released return-to-sports guidelines in order to carryout preseason, regular season and postseason schedules, and they can’t ask student-athletes to sign COVID-19 waivers.
“Our decisions place emphasis where it belongs — on the health and safety of college athletes,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement. “Student-athletes should never feel pressured into playing their sport if they do not believe it is safe to do so.”
On the heels of Wednesday’s news, the University of Connecticut Athletic Department said in a statement that its football program has decided to “cancel all competition for the 2020-21 school year.”
Among the other proclamations from the NCAA, there will be a new hotline for “athletes, parents or others” to report COVID-19 violations.
This gives players a way to make the NCAA aware of unacceptable behavior by coaches who may be inclined to bully and/or to retaliate against those who would dare to complain.
Due to the continued threat of coronavirus infection, the NCAA said it could still cancel fall championships, which could pressure conferences and schools to forgo a college football season. The decision for Division I must be made no later than Aug. 21.
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