The college football season is set to start about four months from now. But, even if students are on campus this fall, one power five program still may not take the field.
The first serious warning of how major college sports might be impacted this fall by the coronavirus pandemic was sounded Tuesday when California State University system chancellor Timothy White announced that it will operate primarily with online instruction for the semester.
The system’s 23 schools include Fresno State, San Diego State and San Jose State, all of which are members of the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision’s 12-team Mountain West Conference.
San Diego State athletics department spokesman Mike May said via email Tuesday night: “I wanted to provide some clarity — at least from SDSU — with regard to today’s announcement. SDSU will offer a hybrid model for classes (some in-person, some virtual). In athletics, we continue to work through many scenarios, including sports in the fall.”
San Diego State President Adela de la Torre offered further clarity on Twitter, saying, in part, “we will offer certain lab- and performance-based instruction in person, while offering the majority of instruction via virtual modalities” and releasing a much more extensive explanation on the school’s website.
The Mountain West released a statement saying no decisions on athletics have made, with that notification being signed by the three CSU campus presidents and commissioner Craig Thompson.
Six other Cal State campuses also are in Division I — Cal Poly, Fullerton, Long Beach and Northridge (all in the nine-team Big West Conference), Sacramento (Big Sky) and Bakersfield (Western Athletic).
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Fresno State RB Ronnie Rivers (20) is defended by San Diego State LB Kyahva Tezino during the Aztecs’ 17-7 win last season. (Photo: Jake Roth, USA TODAY Sports)
Big West school officials “are proceeding with plans for fall athletic competition,” conference commissioner Dennis Farrell said in a statement. “We will continue to assess whether the return of athletic competition in the fall will be appropriate.”
Last Friday, NCAA President Mark Emmert said he does not think sports can return at schools operating in an online-only teaching environment.
“College athletes are college students, and you can’t have college sports if you don’t have college (campuses) open and having students on them,” Emmert said during a conversation on the NCAA’s Twitter channel.
“ … That doesn’t mean it has to be up and running in the full normal model, but you’ve got to treat the health and well-being of the athletes at least as much as the regular students. So if a school doesn’t reopen, then they’re not going to be playing sports. It’s really that simple.”
As if backing Emmert’s point, hours after White’s announcement at a board of regents meeting, the California Collegiate Athletic Association — a Division II conference comprising 13 schools, all but one in the Cal State system — announced it is suspending fall sports until “it is safe and appropriate to do so for all its members.”
“Based on Chancellor White’s … announcement that the vast majority of CSU courses will be virtual for the fall semester of the 2020-21 academic year, and with utmost consideration for the health and welfare of our students, coaches, staff, faculty and communities, CCAA member institutions have determined that NCAA sport competition will not occur during the fall of 2020,” the conference said in a statement.
“The CCAA member institutions will continue to advocate strongly to maintain NCAA championship opportunities for all of our student-athletes, including our fall sports, during the 2020-21 academic year and recommend competition resume when it is safe and appropriate to do so for all of its members.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Steve Berkowitz on Twitter @ByBerkowitz.