The measures will certainly do little to comfort players at Colorado State, which is investigating a report that said Coach Steve Addazio pressured players to avoid testing. Or at Washington State, where players who were considering opting out for health reasons — but were questioned by Coach Nick Rolovich about their involvement in a player protest movement — were removed from the team. Or in the Pac-12, where 18 players who pushed for the same uniform testing protocols as the N.F.L. said Commissioner Larry Scott was dismissive of their concerns.
As of Sunday, at least 30 players had opted out of Power 5 programs, with some of them saying they would instead prepare for the N.F.L. draft. And the Big Sky became the seventh Football Championship Subdivision conference (out of 13) to say it would not play football this fall.
Gretchen Snoeyenbos Newman, an assistant professor of infectious disease at Wayne State University, said, “The rapidity with which Division II and Division III came back with their answer is a guide to the N.C.A.A. that schools that don’t have large financial stakes in continuing to have their fall sports programs have decided it’s not in the athletes’ best interest to play.”
But even the Division III decision is an example of how the N.C.A.A., even in a moment of crisis, can be hindered by process.
The division’s management council (mostly administrators), which advises its governing board (mostly school presidents), voted nearly unanimously to cancel fall sports championships when they met on July 21. It took more than two weeks for the governing board to act on it.
In that time, Heather Benning, the commissioner of the Midwest Conference and the chairwoman of the Division III management council, said that when her board made its recommendation, 20 of the 43 conferences had already canceled some sports. By Wednesday, she said 42 of the 43 had done so.
“The health and safety piece doesn’t change,” she said when asked why Division II and III have canceled fall championships while Division I has not. “Because Division I hasn’t publicly announced a decision, I don’t think it means they’re looking at different standards. A lot of it comes down to resources. For Division III, a big factor for us has been access to testing.”