Updated: Sep 23, 2020
Hey Everyone! Welcome to What’s Cooking with Coach, I am your host Kris Metea. Today I am serving up quite a topic that has far-reaching ramifications.
From the emotional blow to man’s Saturday to the economic impact of games and local communities. I am talking about the canceling of college sports this fall!
During my last podcast I talked about school’s opening back up and whether it was safe or not during the coronavirus pandemic. You can get that episode link here.
Today, we talk about the collateral damage of those decisions.
Now, I am a huge college sports fan! I am a huge sports fan in general. It comes down to my enjoyment of competition and the life lessons that result from such commitment. Watching athletes go through the ups and downs of a game and season and to grow as people and players is exciting. Many athletes will have defining moments that come from a memorable game. And it is not just athletes, fans get the enjoyment of witnessing great feats, watching accomplishment and history with their own eyes!
This fall, however, we will not be seeing that. Many colleges and universities have canceled their fall seasons. Conferences nixed their fall championships, and the NCAA as a result, canceled fall championships for Division 1, 2, and 3. The exception, of course, is College Football, as 6 of the 10 major football conferences still remain confident and determined to play a fall season…for now.
How did we get here? Well, as we all know, the coronavirus has plagued our country (and the world), and it has devastated economies. It has legitimately thrown us for a loop. No one knows what to do, and the information we get changes daily. After all, 2020 is the biggest science experiment in human history. We are seeing the scientific method roll out every day, and with every new solution and finding there comes a new problem. Those problems complicate our existing logistical system and are changing the world we once knew into a new one that we must adapt.
Cancellations started back in April and May, believe it or not, when schools that were hit financially due to budget cuts began cutting sports. Stanford cut 11 Varsity sports back in early July. A local school in Massachusetts, UMASS-Dartmouth cut athletic programs including Lacrosse which left students who already paid tuition for the upcoming year left without a program to play for. College athletic budgets were adversely affected by tax revenues being cut during a shutdown. In addition, extraordinary tuition costs during a time when family head of households were losing jobs further complicated revenue streams making it difficult for schools to keep sports, when keeping workers on staff became more important.
The cancellations and postponements of existing sports began July 8th. The Ivy league, which closed schools first back in March, and canceled its winter sports tournaments, made the announcement to postpone all sports to the spring.
Lets go through the timeline real quick.
- The Big 10 and Pac-12 decided to go conference only.
- The NJCAA postponed to Spring.
- Patriot League Canceled (affected by many non-league games with Ivy League)
- Division 2/3 Conference (MASCAC, NESCAC, NE-10)
- Colonial Athletic Conference Canceled
- America East Postponed
- Atlantic 10 Canceled
- SWAC moved to Spring
- Notre Dame goes to the ACC (Announce Conference plus 1 schedule)
- SEC goes conference Only
- Big 12 announces schedule (8+4)
- UConn becomes first FBS school to cancel.
- FCS Playoffs canceled (Eight of 13 conferences postponed or canceled)
- MAC Cancels.
- Big West Cancels
- Mountain West Cancels
- Big 10 and Pac 12 cancel, eyeing Spring.
- UMASS cancels fall sports (FBS independent)
- Big East Cancels.
- New Mexico State (FBS Independent) postpones to spring.
The culmination in all of this is the cancellation of fall sports championships in all divisions. Each school will have to make a choice about playing sports individually if their conference has not decided for them yet. I fully expect most conferences and schools to not play. FBS Football is still active though.
That is a heavy hit on the athletic calendar! Media corporations will now be scrambling to find broadcast fillers, and schools will be navigating a world with less funds to operate.
Why did everyone cancel?
Cancellations have come from a variety of reasons. The question that should be asked is why is there staggered decisions for every school and conference?
College sports is very regional. College Football is more popular in the South and Midwest than other parts of the country. The Northeast schools are largely impacted on education principles, whereas the remainder of the country is impacted by economic principles. There are parts of the country that will see economic turmoil if colleges do not play sports.
As we have seen across the country, each state is reacting to the coronavirus very differently. The values in each state differ greatly. It has been a very divisive virus. Each state is attempting to do what is best for itself, whether people living there like it or not. College conferences have followed suit. They are choosing the best route for its constituency in a very polarizing climate.
The NCAA has not stepped in, simply, because it follows the wishes of its members. The members ultimately choose the path, and if they choose to play or not play, the NCAA will follow orders and complete the task. The call for leadership from a national entity in a regional problem is unrealistic. That was never the NCAA’s job.
The schools and conferences are looking out for the best interest of their institution (including its athletes). They are relying on ever-changing medical information in an era where people are attempting to skew data to fit their motives and agendas. How all schools and conferences are not getting the same data is a looming question. It may be the same, but the interpretation of the data and the risk mitigation factors are playing large roles in decisions.
The number one medical piece of information that is affecting school choices is the unknown effects on the heart. It is unknown how severe the effects will be on athletes and how long it will take for it to cause long-term issues. Boston Red Sox player Eduardo Rodriguez has seen complications effecting his heart after contracting the virus.
How can schools knowingly put kids in competition if there is a potential for long-term injury? This is the Billion-dollar question.
But aren’t athletes better equipped and healthy enough to withstand the virus? They might be short-term, but long-term, who knows. Science is still trying to figure that out.
This is all coming after several schools including Michigan State and Rutgers had to quarantine their players after positive COVID-19 tests. Several schools across Power 5 conferences have had to similar quarantines. Louisville went as far as to dismiss three soccer players for hosting a party that violated safety rules that were designed to reduce virus risks.
Schools are now wary regarding the positive cases across the country. There are Billions of dollars being settled regarding CTE and Concussions from football, and those were unknown consequences. We now have a virus that is very known.
The NCAA chief medical board advisor and infectious disease experts even believes that the primary focus should be controlling the pandemic and not playing sports.
What are the other factors?
Money seems to be the actual factor. Health and safety are cited as number one, but any administrator will tell you that money always plays a role in how that is accomplished. If it is not completely safe, the likely answer is there is not enough money to make it completely safe.
The cost of testing by each school would be excessive. The Power 5 conferences could do it, but it will hit their budget hard. Schools like Florida State, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh have been called out by players regarding unacceptable testing procedures. The ideas of Bubbles have been tossed around, but these are student-athletes and not pros (whether you want to believe it or not). Keeping them in a bubble, isolated from a college experience would go against school values, and, well be costly.
The Economic impact alone is a whole podcast on its own. The average Power 5 conference program is expected to lose almost $70 million in revenue without a season. The University of Wisconsin has stated that it will lose $100 million in revenue. Schools that have depended on guarantee money games are feeling the effects. Appalachian State cut three sports as a result of its cancellations of guaranteed money games. Athletic Directors must make difficult choices about safety, money, and salaries. There are many moving parts to their decisions. However, big name coaches are still keeping big salaries in an economic crunch, a topic for another day.
We have talked a lot about Football’s effect on college sports, but we have not seen the basketball effect yet. Conferences are already pushing into traditional winter sports seasons now, and those non-conference guarantee money games are getting hit. The financial ramifications of the coronavirus on colleges and universities has been monumental, and it is still not over.
Another situation people do not mention at all is the double-standard for students vs. student-athletes. How can you tell students at an institution that have to be remote, but athletes get to come back and play? It sounds like these student athletes are more important than the average student. Whether you want to look at the money the athletes bring in (which really only the Power 5 conferences do) as making them more important, I would suggest to you that students working in the medical labs maybe should be paid a cut of those profits and findings. Schools have already limited the number of students on campuses to a safe number. It would be discriminatory to keep athletes on campus before the average student.
An argument by Power 5 coaches state that student-athletes are better off and safer on campuses. Aren’t all students safer on campus? A lot of students that are itching to get back to school will now not be. Student-athletes do not get a pass because they can throw a football farther than anyone else. There are many students across the country with similar demographic and socioeconomic backgrounds that will not be getting the benefit of getting back to campus, all of which will be at risk for the virus back home, and arguably more at risk since they may not be as healthy as athletes.
The NCAA has already created blanket eligibility for athletes as protection for players that lose seasons. Schools are upholding scholarships for students who opt-out for health reasons or choose not to compete. Players are protected in that sense, so playing a short or vulnerable season may not be in their best interest. This is a big safety net, among other things asked by players. Players want to be heard and want to feel safe, and not feel like they are the cornerstone of institutional survival.
The real complication here is lawyers. We always blame the lawyers. We live in such a sue-happy society that litigation is always around the corner. Words like negligence and liability now affect every administration decision. Schools cannot afford to get sued or lose money in lawsuits as result of a virus that more information is known about daily. Schools are in the business of preserving their institutions of learning so that it can benefit future students. The school entity is the most important thing in all of this. If a school goes bankrupt, the employees are on the unemployment line, and students must go elsewhere, or nowhere at all. We do not think about that. I mean, if they do not exist, how can we root for them on Saturdays?
What Happens with all of this?
In short, no one really knows. The continuation of this saga will continue until next year. It appears we are almost losing one-year of sports, and we will resume in March 2021. There will be Spring Football, and yes it will impact pro sports. However, that is not the school’s or NCAA issue. Their issue is treating all student-athletes as equally as possible.
The NCAA is not a professional breeding ground regardless of what it is perceived. Students go to school to get an education, not become a pro athlete. Becoming a pro athlete is a byproduct of attending the institution. The NCAA and college sports needs to separate from the professional development model. Players that want to protect themselves for the draft is perfectly fine. If we look at schools as NFL training grounds, we have lost sight into what the education model ought to be.
Sports have proven invaluable to the learning process. Athletics promote values of hard-work, discipline, teamwork, respect, communication, accountability, and performance under pressure. The values and intangible skills associated with athletics often goes well beyond the classroom. Athletics can go as far as being the reason that people graduate school, both high school and college. Athletics could even be the reason they get the opportunity. As a former college athlete, I can tell you firsthand that the game of hockey has given me everything in life. Almost anything I have earned, have done, or people I have met I can attribute to sport directly or indirectly.
Colleges and Universities (and high schools, for that matter) recognize the importance of athletics to the whole development of the student, and, as a result, have worked to sustain and develop programs to aid student-athletes. Make no mistake, sports become a recruiting tool, and can make the difference of an athlete attending or not attending an institution.
Colleges and Universities promote athletics as a part of their core values. Values is the key term. As a result of the coronavirus, schools are looking deep into their educational values and purpose. What is the purpose of a college or university? In short, it is to prepare students for career pursuits throughout a lifetime beyond their college years. It would be short-sighted of me to say that schools have gotten lost in the money aspect of education. Any person or program is susceptible to pressure and distraction. Despite the amount of money that is profited off of top-tier college athletics, the institutions that have canceled have begun to see that their core values, providing a culture that helps students progress, is more important than money.
Arguments from across the country, and some of which that I have outlined today, are flying in. People cannot fathom canceling something that has been so ingrained in our society that anger has taken over a conscience. The Anger for the changes we have seen due to the coronavirus is misplaced and misguided. What people are angry at is the system that we have succumb to that puts us in a rigid schedule dependent on consistent entertainment. What has been lost in all of this is the values that we have. If people value entertainment over negligence and safety, then I cannot help but feel sorry for the opinions that have been presented.
I commend the colleges and universities that have canceled, albeit a difficult decision with many moving parts. It comes down to life and education is more important than money and entertainment. The values that have once been lost and misplaced due to the sights of profits may have once again been regained.
I am praying for the return of sports (maybe in the Spring). Only time will tell. We are on the right track and moving forward. I look forward to witnessing student-athletes compete again on the field as a support to their career education journey.
That is all the time I have for today! Thank you for joining me on What’s Cooking with Coach?! You can find more articles at whatscookingwithcoach.com or find me on social media @CoachMetea or @CookingWCoach.