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Dr. M. Grace Calhoun, Penn Director of Athletics and Recreation, is the current chair of the NCAA Division I Council, offering advice on COVID-19.

Credit: Sage Levine

At the forefront of the return to play for collegiate athletics sits a prominent Penn figure. 

In January 2019, Penn Athletics Director M. Grace Calhoun, was named the new chair of the NCAA Division I Council, a high-level group responsible for the day-to-day decision making for the division. She also represents the Council with a seat on the Division I Board of Directors, the first chair from a non-Power Five school.

In light of major events disrupting Division I athletics due to COVID-19, Calhoun has been at the forefront of decisions reshaping the future of collegiate sports and their return to play. Here are three of the most recent major decisions Calhoun and her team spearheaded. 

Approved moving fall championships to the spring

On Sept. 21, the Division I Council approved multiple proposals to move the 2020 fall championships to the spring of 2021. The recommendations were given for men's cross country, women's cross country, field hockey, men's soccer, women's soccer, women's volleyball and men's water polo.

“The plan gives maximum opportunities to fall student-athletes to participate in NCAA championships, while preserving access to conferences through automatic qualifications,” Calhoun told 

Barred activities on Election Day to increase athlete voter turnout 

On Sept. 16, the NCAA Division I Council approved a new measure that prohibits Division I student-athletes from practicing and competing on Election Day every year. The measure was passed to both allow them to vote in elections and to have the option of using their platform and publicity to participate in other civic activities. It will first go into effect for next month's election. The news came after multiple Division I schools said they would cancel athletics activities to allow athletes to vote.

"The Council unanimously supports this important piece of legislation," Dr. Calhoun told ESPN. "Coming from Division I SAAC, we know it represents the voice of student-athletes across the country who continue to express a desire to increase their civic engagement at local, state and federal levels. We look forward to seeing student-athletes use this opportunity as a way to create positive change.”

Approved Nov. 25 start date for men's and women's basketball

The NCAA Division I Council approved moving the first contest date for Division I men's and women's basketball to Nov. 25 for the upcoming season with full practices beginning as early as Oct. 14. Teams will have 42 days to conduct up to 30 practices and players will be able to work up to 20 hours per week, with at least one day off per week. This is consistent with normal preseason rules.