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Aresco, Commissioners Ask NCAA for Relief from Requirements due to COVID-19

AAC’s Mike Aresco among those who sent letter to Mark Emmert

Mike Aresco American
American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco speaks at AAC media day at Gurney’s Newport Resort and Marina Tuesday, July 16, 2019.
Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco was among the five commissioners of the so-called Group of Five conferences who petitioned NCAA President Mark Emmert for relief of several requirements for Division I schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Yahoo Sports.

The move comes in the wake of Cincinnati abruptly ending its Men’s Soccer program, as well as Old Dominion scrapping wrestling, as schools scramble to deal with the financial fallout from altered and canceled Olympic sports seasons.

The letter, posted by Yahoo Sports, has been removed from their Scribd account, but here is the key text from the remaining embed:

In order to provide NCAA Division I institutions flexibility in addressing the challenges for the foreseeable future, we request temporary relief from several regulatory requirements for a period of up to four years (see attached). A blanket waiver for relief will provide institutions the ability to make prudent and necessary decisions for the financial well-being of the institution. Providing short-term relief from a handful of regulatory requirements will facilitate the opportunity for institutions to retrench and rebuild the financial structures of the institution. Additionally, this will allow time for the membership to engage in discussions about a vision for higher education and intercollegiate athletics in a post-COVID-19 world. If the waiver is granted, we would also request that a moratorium be placed on the Division I membership. During the term of the waiver, it would not seem appropriate to have institutions change NCAA divisions. However, if there are institutions presently in the process of reclassifying to Division I, we would support the process continuing so long as the institutions can meet existing regulations.

The bylaws the commissioners are seeking relief from are, per the attachment to the email:

  • The football attendance requirement of averaging 15,000 fans per game
  • The minimum number of sponsored sports (16), including six men’s and eight women’s sports.
  • The rule requiring FBS teams play at least 60% of their games against other FBS schools.
  • Other scheduling requirements for basketball and Olympic sports.

The full list of bylaws have been posted by Yahoo Sports:

What this means for UCF

UCF is currently at the NCAA-mandated minimum of 16 sponsored sports, all of which are fully funded. As of right now, UCF is in a better position than most of its AAC counterparts.

That doesn’t mean any UCF Knights programs are immune from any changes, however. Depending on how the student enrollment situation plays out for the Fall of 2020 (given UCF’s partial reliance on a student athletic fee, but also UCF’s robust online education platform), budgets for several sports may feel a sharp crunch, especially on the Olympic sports side.

For example, in-conference trips out to Tulsa and Wichita State might be a hard no. That can be handled in-conference for the time being.

However, several UCF programs have boosted their national RPI by playing tough schedules in non-conference competition at far-flung road venues, such as Volleyball, Soccer, Baseball, and Softball, which took a two-week trip to California just before the entire 2020 season got scrubbed.

With travel opportunities like that probably going by the wayside, this could mean a steep drop in some programs’ national rankings, if their seasons even happen. A conference-only regular season would hurt that even more, depending on the strength of the league.

Recruiting budgets will also take a hit, although probably not as much. Florida is a big state that produces a lot of high-level student-athletes, and with the Bright Futures program still in place, that will help ease the scholarship funding crunch at least somewhat.

The extremely unsatisfying answer to all of this is that we’ll just have to wait and see how the summer plays out, and stay the hell home.