Decision on fall championships will affect Syracuse football, basketball

The NCAA board hasn’t canceled fall championships – yet – but a future move in that direction will impact Syracuse football and basketball.

Leaders of the Power Five leagues, including the Atlantic Coast Conference where Syracuse football is a member, as well as the College Football Playoff probably breathed at least a slight sigh of relief on Friday after the NCAA’s board of governors elected not to take any immediate action on fall championships.

The board, per a statement, will continue its discussions in August on the state of the 22 NCAA fall championships that are slated to begin in late November amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, which unfortunately is registering record numbers of cases in many states around the country.

These fall championships don’t include the lucrative College Football Playoff, which operates on its own, as the NCAA handles FCS football, but not at the Football Bowl Subdivision (“FBS”) level.

Yet if other sports, besides football, see their fall championships go away as a result of future decisions from the NCAA’s board, then that creates a real issue for football.

You see, it won’t look so good if the NCAA, an incompetent organization from my perspective, deems it unsafe for student-athletes to participate in fall championships, but then the College Football Playoff and associated post-season bowl line-up elect to carry on.

That type of scenario, frankly, would make university presidents, athletic directors, coaches and others in leadership posts within college football appear as if they only care about lining their own pockets, rather than keeping their players safe.

On Friday, NCAA President Mark Emmert issued a statement that read in part, “We all remain deeply concerned about the [COVID-19] infection trend lines we see. It is clear that the format of our championships will have to change if they are to be conducted in a safe and fair manner.”

Turning to college hoops and the Orange, CBS Sports published a story earlier this month in which NCAA Vice President of Basketball Dan Gavitt said, “First and foremost, we’re only going to do anything that’s safe, and so we know that we don’t control the virus, the virus controls us. But if there’s basketball being played anywhere safely in 2021, we will have March Madness.”

However, this past Friday evening, The Associated Press reported that the College Commissioners Association sent a letter to the NCAA’s board that included a discussion on hoops.

The letter, in part, said, “If fall championships are canceled, the question as to whether we will start the basketball regular season as scheduled will need to be immediately addressed by either i) announcing a delay to the start of the basketball season or ii) explaining why it is appropriate to conduct basketball games but not fall championships. By delaying any decisions regarding the status of fall championships as long as the planning process allows, we will avoid the basketball season becoming a casualty of an early decision, while also benefiting from the most current health and safety information available.”

For Syracuse football and basketball, as well as numerous other Orange fall sports, clearly a lot is riding on whether the NCAA’s board, in August or beyond, makes the determination that fall championships are a no-go.