U.S. College Sports Uncertain as School Year Begins
September 11, 2020
We wrote a few weeks ago about the return to play in most professional sports. As of the publication of this blog, the NBA and NHL were deep into their playoffs, while baseball was not far behind. The NFL is set to kick off on Sunday. And while professional sports might be back in many ways outside of having fans present at the games, the US college sports scene is still very much up in the air.
Colleges Taking their own Approaches
College campuses are once again active, even if students may be attending many of their classes virtually. However, college football as well as other sports are usually off to a healthy start by this point in the year.
Some colleges and athletic divisions made decisions quickly, with the Ivy League ruling out playing all sports on July 8. According to a timeline published by ESPN, other divisions soon fell in line, with the Patriot League, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, and Colonial Athletic Association all making similar announcements shortly thereafter (with more to follow).
As it currently stands, both the Big Ten and Pacific 12 conferences stated they were not going to play in the fall. But the current college football season is going to happen in some capacity. A recent ESPN article states that defending champions LSU will have up to 25% of its stadium full during a season set to begin later this month against schools such as Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina, Alabama, and Ole Miss.
Whether that schedule will remain in force to remains to be seen. The Louisiana Tech vs. Baylor season opener which was scheduled for last Saturday had to be postponed after an increase of COVID-19 cases on the home team’s campus. An additional four games were cancelled this past Saturday.
A Number of Other Sports Are Cut
ESPN reported that a number of US colleges have cut sports programs, including the University of Cincinnati announcing it was permanently cutting its men’s soccer program. Other schools have cut programs or in some cases asked for staff to be furloughed. Whether these sports will return next season remains to be seen.
Is it Safe to Resume Sports?
With many areas in life still on hold, it’s not unreasonable to ask whether it’s responsible to have any college sports at all. After all, the first priority should be teh safety of the athletes and coaching staff. Perhaps not surprisingly, there are a variety of views on this. An article published on Medical Daily this week quotes a doctor who works for Baylor who suggested that the spread of COVID-19 can be made less severe if proper safety precautions, including maintaining good hygiene and social distancing, are followed. However, he warned, “It’s important that everyone who is attending practices or games remembers to wear a mask – we have seen cases of kids contracting COVID-19 and also cases of young adults and kids who may be asymptomatic carriers.”
However, not everybody agreed. The article also quoted the co-chair of the Advocacy Committee of the PA Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The article states, “he feels the risks outweigh the benefits of in-person school sports for the fall. He believes that testing is the number one priority, but that many schools do not have mass testing readily available. Due to these facts, students’ lives would be at risk on a daily basis.”
All of this throws a huge wrinkle into agents looking to work with athletes emerging from the college system. It remains to be seen how drafts for professional sports will be impacted by a possible lack of play by amateur athletes. With some individual colleges reporting more cases in a two-week perioed than all of Canada, it seems that precautions should not be taken lightly.
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