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Breakup of NCAA Could Result From Its Decision on Fall Sports

  • Angering Power Five football conferences could alienate them
  • Organization weighs virus risks against push for competition
The Ohio State Buckeyes take the field for a game against the Michigan State Spartans in Columbus, Ohio in 2019.

The Ohio State Buckeyes take the field for a game against the Michigan State Spartans in Columbus, Ohio in 2019.

Photographer: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

There are no good options for the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The NCAA’s decision on whether to go ahead with fall seasons for every sport except football is expected as soon as Tuesday. If the organization opts to sponsor competition in soccer, cross country and field hockey, among others, critics will say it’s jeopardizing the health of scholar-athletes as a resurgent coronavirus outbreak rages. But if the NCAA cancels the seasons, it risks angering the five biggest football conferences, four of which have already announced plans to go ahead with modified schedules starting next month.

The NCAA has little sway over football, but it can hardly risk alienating the so-called Power Five conferences because that’s where the big money is, especially in basketball, which accounts for most NCAA revenue. And if the association says competition this fall is too dangerous, it’s essentially exposing the Power Five for putting profits ahead of athletes. That could push the conferences toward wholesale abandonment of the NCAA.