The NCAA has denied a request to temporarily waive the minimum number of sports required to be a Division I member.
Some schools may eventually be allowed to have fewer than the required 16 varsity sports. However, rather than grant blanket relief across Division I, the NCAA Division I Council decided it will look at each situation on its own.
“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,” Division I Council chair and University of Pennsylvania director of athletics M. Grace Calhoun said in Friday’s release. “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.”
“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,” Texas Tech men’s golf coach Greg Sands, the president of the Golf Coaches Association of America, said according to the Golf Channel. ”I know the door’s still open for individual waivers to be processed, so I don’t think we’re out of the woods necessarily.”
Universities and athletic departments are looking for financial relief amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has decreased revenue streams across the collegiate landscape. Experts anticipate many schools to pursue cutting sports, as Old Dominion and Cincinnati have already done with wrestling and men’s soccer, respectively.
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The prospect of requiring fewer sports has been on the table since earlier this month, when a group of conference commissioners wrote a letter to NCAA president Mark Emmert asking for temporary relief from a number of NCAA guidelines, including the minimum sport requirement.
“This collaborative request from the Group of Five is intended as the sort of creative alternative these unprecedented times demand,” Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said earlier this month. “The waivers of NCAA legislation would create a permissive environment, allowing each institution and conference across the Division I landscape the necessary flexibility to determine how best to proceed in making financial adjustments which are intended to preserve sports and opportunities for student-athletes.”
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On Friday, the Division I Council also delayed making a decision on allowing all college athletes to be immediately eligible after transferring for the first time.
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