The NCAA reclassified men’s and women’s lacrosse as “intermediate” transmission risk in its updated return-to-sport guidelines — an encouraging shift, since lacrosse was initially labeled a “high” transmission risk.

It’s a welcome step for hopes of lacrosse’s to return to play, as the classification means a lower threshold of testing and health standards — and the costs associated with them.

A handful of coaches Friday were encouraged by the news. However, it is a recommendation, and ultimately decisions on testing standards are decided by conferences and individual institutions. And, as a DI athletics administrator noted Friday, the positive development is not nearly as important as the virus metrics going down, and that will be the ultimate decider of what play looks like in the spring.

Lacrosse was classified in the same category as baseball, field hockey, indoor track & field, rowing, soccer, softball and volleyball. The testing recommendations are much different between high and intermediate risk sports. The recommendation for high risk outdoor sports is once weekly by PCR testing (within three days before the competition), or three times weekly by antigen/rapid PCR testing. For intermediate, that drops to “Surveillance PCR or antigen testing, for example, 25%-50% of athletes and Tier 1 nonathlete personnel every one to two weeks if physical distancing, masking and other protective features are not maintained, plus additional testing for symptomatic and high infection risk individuals as warranted.”

High risk sports include basketball and football.

The NCAA classification differs from high school. The NFHS classified girls' lacrosse as a moderate risk but boys' lacrosse as high risk. Some states have recommended no face-offs in competition. US Lacrosse has urged decision-makers to reconsider that designation.

The report follows the latest CDC guidelines, which explains the shift as more information about COVID-19 is discovered. Whereas men’s lacrosse is a contact sport, it doesn’t feature the prolonged contact that high risk sports like basketball and football do.

The Ivy League was the first DI conference to make any announcement in regard to spring 2021. It will not start play until at least March 1, the league announced this week. Hampton will not participate in spring athletics.

Scheduling is an enormous concern for the 2021 season, and testing is an integral part of that discussion. If one conference (or institution) sets testing and safety regulations for its members, decision-makers will have to decide if each team’s opponents must uphold those same standards. Some conferences with more resources might be able to afford higher testing standards than others, leaving conferences priced out of competition. That creates gaps in schedules, and that’s before considering issues like state or local regulations or travel bans.

The full report and NCAA summary can be found here.

-Inside Lacrosse