IU athletes won’t lose scholarship if they don’t compete due to COVID-19 fears

Indiana athletics has made clear to its student-athletes that they will not lose their scholarships if they choose not to compete due to COVID-19 concerns.

In an email Tuesday from outgoing athletic director Fred Glass and incoming AD Scott Dolson, athletes received an outline of what to expect as they return to campus. It was stressed that workouts are currently “strictly voluntary,” but it’s also an athlete’s choice whether or not to compete at all.

“If notwithstanding the protocols of the Restart Plan you are unwilling to participate in intercollegiate athletics because of concerns about COVID-19, we will continue to honor your scholarship,” the email reads. “This is your decision based on medical considerations. If after discussing your concerns with the Chief Medical Officer you do not want to participate in intercollegiate athletics, we will still honor your scholarship.”

COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the United States, with case numbers spiking significantly in several states. IU’s football team returned to campus earlier this month, along with the men’s and women’s basketball programs. In an initial round of 187 tests, IU reported that no one tested positive for COVID-19.

But that’s not been the case everywhere. At Clemson, 37 football players have tested positive. A week ago, it was reported more than 30 members of LSU’s football team were quarantined following positive COVID-19 results.

Before IU’s athletes return to campus, they are required to sign a “pledge” stating they will report symptoms if they arise and also adhere to other social distancing and hygiene standards. That was once again laid out in the email, along with a clarification that the pledge is not a release or waiver of liability.

“The Pledge was written by doctors, not lawyers,” the email states. “There is no language in the Pledge that in any way waives any of your rights or releases any liability by IU Athletics. It is not, and will never be utilized as, a release or waiver of liability.”

According to the department’s current timeline, IU’s women’s soccer team is the next to return to campus on July 6, followed by volleyball (July 8), men’s soccer (July 13), field hockey (July 15), and cross country (Aug. 18). This is considered “Phase One” of IU’s plan for restarting athletic activities and is subject to change, depending on how the virus continues to spread in the U.S.

In the final bullet point of Tuesday’s email, Glass and Dolson stress that athletes will have a choice whether to participate in athletics this year.

“We would like to have athletics this season,” the email says. “We are preparing to have athletics this season. But that decision, like all of the decisions relating to COVID-19, will be a medical one made by doctors, not a sports one made by coaches or administrators. If the Medical Advisory Group advises that we suspend athletics this season in whole or in part we will immediately do so.”

Tuesday was Glass’ last official day as IU’s athletic director. Dolson, who has served as deputy AD, will now assume control of IU’s athletic department.