College Sports in the Age of COVID

College Sports in the Age of COVID

Jacob Durbin

In a world that has become increasingly difficult to navigate in the age of a pandemic, sports are certainly no exception. And while many professional leagues have successfully implemented alternate plans with safety protocols firmly in place, college sports is another situation entirely.

    The logistics of college sports prove to be far more complex; liability issues, the scope of the D1’s size with over 130 teams, and the massive network of university, state, and conference policies on the pandemic. Additionally, it becomes a much harder task to restart when considering that the NCAA, the governing body of college athletics, has generally taken a backseat on the process of restarting football and basketball at the collegiate level; leaving each conference to make their own decision, causing scheduling nightmares across the country.

     College football proved to be the first test for an attempted restart of the seasonal sports. It was clear from the beginning, that in the midst of the pandemic, the season would look entirely different; if it was to be played at all. The 5 major conferences were split on how (and if) they should go about resuming play for a new season. The ACC, SEC, and Big 12 opted to continue plans to start their seasons ons schedule with testing protocols and safety measures in place. Also, to avoid long travel, they opted to limit games to within their own conferences.

     However, the decision was not as simple for all; the Big 10 conference, along with the Pac-12, opted at first to not restart on schedule, choosing to “re-evaluate” later in the season. But with other teams far ahead on their schedules by the time of the December reconsideration date, it was clear to most that this was practically a cancellation of the 2020 campaign in these leagues.

    Despite this initial concern, the Big 10’s teams later voted unanimously on September 16 to reverse their choice and play an abbreviated intra-conference schedule of 8 games, starting on the weekend of October 23. The Pac-12, meanwhile, has approved the framework for a restart of the fall football season that will begin on the weekend of November 6, with no fan attendance. The schedule has yet to be revealed.

    And while fans, players, coaches, and analysts across the country are no doubt ecstatic with the decision, it will certainly be interesting to see what implications these differences in scheduling have on the College Football Playoff and postseason bowl selection processes.

    As for the plan for college basketball, the planning has yet to be as detailed. A tentative goal for a restart has been set for November 25. It’s still unclear whether an NCAA tournament will be possible, after it was canceled in late March 2020 due to the surfacing of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    College sports serve as a lifeline revenue source for universities all across the states and impact the future development and careers of countless student-athletes. And while the success of the restart’s execution is still yet to be determined, the motivation and devoted attempts to resume the play of college sports at the highest level has been set in stone. We’ll see if the NCAA and its major conferences can live up to the task.