By UPI |

NCAA chairman, senators support universal coronavirus guidelines

Michael Drake, chairman of the National Collegiate Athletic Association board of governors, testifies during a Senate commerce, science and transportation hearing Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

July 1 (UPI) -- The chairman of the NCAA board of governors told Congress on Wednesday that he favors universal guidelines to limit the spread of the coronavirus at colleges, but doesn't support having students sign a liability waiver.

Michael Drake, who's also Ohio State University's outgoing president, testified before the Senate commerce, science and transportation committee as part of a hearing on whether collegiate athletes should be allowed to receive compensation for the use of their names and likenesses. The questioning, though, repeatedly touched on how colleges will handle students returning to campuses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Also appearing at the hearing were Keith Carter, vice chancellor for athletics at the University of Mississippi; former NFL and college athlete Eric Winston; Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey; and University of Baltimore law professor Dionne Koller.

Currently, the NCAA has no universal guidelines in place and is allowing individual schools to implement their own policies. Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., questioned the wisdom of the approach.

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"So a lack of a unified response from the NCAA may result in what we see playing out in the states: a patchwork of mandatory and voluntary guidelines, potentially resulting in spikes and transmission of the virus in some states and some schools and not in others," she said.

Drake said he'd support universal guidelines, which the NCAA is currently discussing.

"This is under discussion actively on a daily basis and we'll be talking about it later on in this week," he told senators. "I certainly support that."

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He doesn't support, however, a liability waiver. Ohio State students, he said, will be asked to sign a pledge before returning to class Aug. 25.

"What the pledge says is you'll wear masks in public, you'll wash hands, you'll keep 6 feet distance and if you get ill you will report that to the people who allow you to be protected," Drake said.

He said the school required student athletes to sign the so-called Buckeye Pledge before returning to voluntary workouts last month.

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Koller said the pledge could have the same legal implications as a liability waiver.

"Even things like the Buckeye Pledge, which are important for public health, can cross over and be used down the line to be sort of an assumption risk," she told the panel.