The NCAA football oversight committee is asking the association's Board of Governors to avoid making a decision soon on whether to conduct fall championships as college sports tries to find a path to play through the coronavirus pandemic.
A letter dated July 21 was sent by committee chairman Shane Lyons, the University of West Virginia athletic director, to the board before it meets Friday. The letter was obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press and first reported on by Yahoo Sports.
"We acknowledge that the path forward will be challenging, and that the virus may ultimately dictate outcomes," the letter reads. "We are simply requesting that the Board of Governors not make an immediate decision on the outcome of fall championships, so that conferences and schools may have ample latitude to continue to evaluate the viability of playing football this fall."
College sports leaders have warned if conditions across the country did not improve, football and other fall sports will be in jeopardy.
"I get asked every day if college sports will return this fall. The consensus opinion among our health advisers is significant change must occur for that to happen," NCAA president Mark Emmert said Wednesday while testifying during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing mainly focused on how to allow college athletes to earn money from their names, images and likenesses.
The board is the NCAA's highest-ranking governing body, made up mostly of university presidents representing all three divisions of its nearly 1,300 member schools. Its next official meeting is scheduled for Aug. 4 and Friday's session is ad hoc.
The board has the power to call off NCAA championship events in fall sports such as soccer, women's volleyball and the Football Championship Subdivision.
Five FCS conferences have already postponed their football seasons, though among them the Ivy League, Southwestern Athletic Conference and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference do not participate in the playoffs.
The NCAA has no authority to postpone or cancel specific seasons, a decision that would be up to individual schools or their conferences. However, canceling or postponing NCAA championships could increase pressure for conferences to call off sports — including in the Football Bowl Subdivision, where conferences are weighing options.
"While experience has shown that the impact of the virus can shift dramatically from week to week, the committee strongly believes that a patient approach to evaluating the possibility of conducting 2020 fall championships will provide the remaining conferences and schools the best opportunity to make deliberate decisions about conducting practices and competition this fall," the oversight committee wrote.
The FBS conferences control major college football's postseason, with dozens of bowl games and the four-team College Football Playoff to determine a champion. The NCAA has no role.
The FBS season is scheduled to start around the Labor Day weekend. The prospects of that seem to be dimming after COVID-19 cases surged over the past three weeks in many states.
At the hearing, Emmert also said he is "categorically opposed" to liability waivers some schools have had athletes sign as they return to campus to prepare for their sports seasons.
"It is an inappropriate thing for schools to be doing," he said.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 have already announced they will play only conferences games this season as a way to manage anticipated disruptions from the spread of COVID-19.
Neither conference has released a revised schedule yet. The Atlantic Coast, Big 12 and Southeaster conferences haven't made any decisions on whether to modify schedules but expect to provide more clarity by the end of next week. Modified and truncated schedules could delay the start of the season, buying more time for conditions to improve.
Administrators have said they would like to see how the return of students to campus during August affects the surrounding communities and athletic departments' ability to keep athletes virus-free.
Now there are questions about how soon colleges and universities will allow students back on campus. Clemson University president Jim Clements announced Wednesday that the semester will start online and in-person classes will be delayed four weeks because of COVID-19 cases in South Carolina.
Mountaineers assistant no longer with team
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia's football program has parted ways with defensive coordinator Vic Koenning a month after a player alleged the assistant coach made a series of insensitive remarks, including against Hispanics.
The school announced Koenning's departure by mutual agreement, which AD Lyons said in a statement Wednesday was "in the best interest of our football program."
Coach Neal Brown, who was hired a year ago and brought Koenning with him from Troy, said the decision "was not made lightly and both parties agree that it places us in the best position to positively move forward."
Brown added that both he and Koenning reached the conclusion that the allegations made it "challenging" for Koenning to continue in his role.
"At the end of the day, we all — Vic included — want what is best for our program," Brown said.
Sophomore safety Kerry Martin posted the allegations on his Twitter account about Koenning, who was then placed on administrative leave. The assistant coach issued a public apology the next day, saying his words and actions were not meant to be offensive or insensitive.
Koenning apologized again Wednesday. He said he was "relieved the process is over but will be forever changed by the experience."
Martin said the latest incident happened June 23, when Koenning shared a conversation he had with his son about protests related to racial injustice.
Martin, who is Black, said Koenning's "exact words were, 'If people did not want to get tear gassed, or push back by the police then they shouldn't be outside protesting.'"
Martin said he spoke up right away and asked what Koenning meant but said Koenning "couldn't give a straight answer." A graduate assistant stepped in to try to defuse the situation.
During a June 2019 workout in Morgantown, Martin said Koenning "called me retarded for doing the wrong technique." Martin said he has family members who are mentally ill, "and for him to say that hurt me because it was an action we could fix."
During 2019 spring practices, Martin said Koenning antagonized defensive back Derek Pitts "for believing in something that (Koenning) didn't believe," Martin said.
Martin said Koenning then would discuss religion and the Bible in front of Pitts, who transferred last summer to Marshall.
Martin said Koenning found out last fall that Martin had converted his religious beliefs "and pulled me into his office on multiple occasions and talked about religion." Martin said Koenning also has made him read passages from the coach's Bible.
Koenning also would discuss his views on politics during position meetings during the 2019 season, according to Martin.
In one particular meeting, Koenning talked about President Donald Trump "and how he should 'build the wall and keep Hispanics out (of) the country,'" said Martin, who said someone of Hispanic descent was in the meeting.
The separation agreement calls for Koenning, who had two seasons remaining on his contract, to be paid a total of about $590,000.
Huskies heading down South
NASHVILLE — Vanderbilt will host Connecticut in football on Oct. 2, 2021, as a replacement for a previously announced game with Houston.
The game announced Wednesday will be the first between the Southeastern Conference program and Connecticut since 2011, when the Commodores needed a fourth-quarter comeback to beat the Huskies 24-21. Vanderbilt leads the series all-time 2-1.
Vanderbilt also will host East Tennessee State and Stanford as part of its nonconference schedule in 2021.
The Huskies also announced a home-and-home series with Georgia State in 2023 and 2024.