The NCAA plans to consider several blanket waivers of its Division I membership requirements. However, reducing sport sponsorship minimums will not be among them.
After breaking from its Friday meeting, the Division I Council announced in a release that the required minimum of 16 varsity sports will still apply to all Division I members, though schools can request such waivers “on an individual basis.”
“Higher education is facing unique challenges, and the Division I leadership believes it’s appropriate to examine areas in which rules can be relaxed or amended to provide flexibility for schools and conferences,” said council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Penn. “We will prioritize student-athlete well-being and opportunities balanced with reducing costs associated with administering college sports, but a blanket waiver of sport sponsorship requirements is not in keeping with our values and will not be considered.”
The news comes as a welcoming update for coaches and players from Olympic and non-revenue sports, including men's and women's golf, many of whom wondered whether their teams were safe should such legislation pass.
"I think it's a small win for the Olympic sports to know that there's not going to be a blanket situation to where possibly sports could get cut," said Texas Tech men's coach Greg Sands, who is also president of the Golf Coaches Association of America. "I know the door's still open for individual waivers to be process, so I don't think we're out of the woods necessarily."
Earlier this month, commissioners from 27 non-Power 5 conferences penned letters to NCAA president Mark Emmert, asking him to consider emergency legislative relief to reduce or waive several Division I membership requirements, including the minimum number of sports a school must sponsor, for a period of up to four years.
“A blanket waiver for relief will provide institutions the ability to make prudent and necessary decisions for the financial well-being of the institution,” read a letter from the Group of 5 conferences, who like everyone else have been hit hard financially by the COVID-19 pandemic, which also threatens to affect the mega-revenue-booster that is college football this fall.
Following the letters from conference commissioners, leaders from coaches’ organizations for Olympic and non-revenue sports, including the GCAA, sent Emmert a letter of their own, this one in opposition to slashing sports.
“If this waiver passes, it would mean the potential for fewer teams, fewer scholarships and fewer opportunities for student athletes competing in Olympic and non-revenue producing sports,” wrote Gregg Grost, CEO of the GCAA, in an email sent Wednesday to golf coaches and GolfChannel.com. “The GCAA strongly opposes this drastic measure and has signed off on a letter with other coaches associations that was sent to NCAA president Mark Emmert.”
The NCAA Division I council, which also removed Friday an FBS barrier that prohibits blanket waivers of any kind in regards to membership requirements, plans to discuss other elements of the waiver request, including scheduling and summer access requirements, over the next few weeks.
"There's so many balls in the air with just really all sports," Sands said. "We all know that football is the key that drives the economic impact of all the sports, and while we kind of sit back and wait for them to figure out what that's going to look like, the trickle-down effect for all of us is huge. I think there's going to be a lot of moving parts once we figure out what football looks like that'll determine how we can play all of our sports and what that looks like."