NCAA Emmert

FILE - In this April 4, 2019, file photo, NCAA President Mark Emmert answers questions at a news conference at the Final Four college basketball tournament in Minneapolis. Emmert says it is “highly probably” federal legislation will pass that sets national guidelines for how college athletes can be compensated for the their names, images and likenesses. Emmert spoke Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, at the Learfield/IMG Intercollegiate Athletic Forum sponsored by the Sports Business Journal, in New York. (AP Photo/Matt York, File) ORG XMIT: NY185

Enough schools will not play sports this fall that NCAA championships in every fall sport have been canceled, NCAA president Mark Emmert said Thursday, with the exception of the Football Bowl Subdivision.

"If you don’t have half the schools playing a sport," Emmert said, "you can’t have a legitimate championship.”

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey responded to the news with a statement that didn’t say whether SEC fall sports would continue with their regular seasons.

“Our soccer, volleyball and cross-country student-athletes are working hard to prepare for their seasons and they have been diligent in taking personal health precautions and following protocols around COVID-19,” the statement read. “We will support them in every way possible as we evaluate the impact of these cancellations on their fall sports seasons.”

The NCAA Board of Governors said last week at least 50% of teams in a sport must play for the NCAA to declare a champion, and the majority of fall sports have dropped below that threshold.

At the same time last week, the NCAA told its three divisions to decide by Aug. 21 if they would play postseason championships in fall sports. Division II and Division III canceled their events within hours.

Conferences across Division I have since dropped out — only one FCS league has not officially postponed its fall sports — leaving the FBS as the only remaining division with a chance to play a postseason championship.

Although four conferences, including the Big Ten and Pac-12, have canceled their fall seasons, the FBS declares a champion through the College Football Playoff, which operates outside NCAA jurisdiction.

The College Football Playoff has not decided how Big Ten and Pac-12 cancellations will affect the playoff, but the CFP selection committee met virtually this week to prepare for the upcoming season, according to a release sent Thursday. Six conferences still intend to play this fall, including the Southeastern Conference, Atlantic Coast and Big 12.

"If the board and management committee say we are having a CFP, we will be ready," committee chair and Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said in a statement.

Emmert said the NCAA will try to stage fall sports championships when schools compete in the spring, but the NCAA will prioritize winter and spring sports because their seasons were stopped before championship competition earlier this year.

In order to make it all work, Emmert said the NCAA may have to shrink brackets and limit travel by holding games at pre-determined sites, moving toward semi-bubble formats in certain sports.

"If schools and conferences want to move forward," Emmert said, "and more than half of them want to do it — and that's surely the indication right now — then let's do it."


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Email Wilson Alexander at walexander@theadvocate.com