The NCAA Division I Council has rejected the efforts of the leaders of five Division I Conferences (the American Athletic, Mountain West, Mid-American, Sun Belt, and Conference USA conferences) who collectively had asked the NCAA for a blanket waiver on behalf of 27 of the 32 NCAA Division I conferences to eliminate its current requirement that a university sponsor a minimum of 16 intercollegiate varsity sports to remain a member of the Football Bowl Subdivision. However, despite the rejection of the waiver request, the NCAA Division I Council Coordination Committee and the Division I Council have agreed continue to review the request and its specific components during their May meetings.
In an effort to have the challenges that universities face during the current COVID-19 environment, the commissioners’ letter pointed out that the “financial challenges being faced include significant decreases in state appropriations, substantial losses in endowment valuation, and a downturn in philanthropic activity.”
The blanket waivers of current NCAA legislation sought to allow each Division I conference and institution autonomy and flexibility to determine any necessary financial adjustments unique to their individual needs.
Division I Council chairwoman Grace Calhoun, the athletic director at the University of Pennsylvania commented with regard to the Council’s rejection of the blanket waiver as follows, “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,” She continued, “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.
Jackson Lewis’ Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group will continue to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on collegiate and professional sports. Please feel free to reach out to any member of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group with questions.