March 12, 2020, will go down in sports history as the day the sports world stopped. The cause of this distribution? Potentially increasing the spread of the Coronavirus.
In a matter of 24 hours, collegiate sports went from Final Four tournaments continuing without fans in attendance to all winter and spring sports, including championship tournaments, being cancelled. The main concern is that the airborne COVID-19 would be difficult to contain in such large crowds.
In a statement, the NCAA said, “This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities.”
Conference USA also announced the suspension of all spring sports Thursday morning. Southern Miss Athletics released a statement regarding the decision: “The decision was made in an effort to limit the spread of this virus and in the interest of the health and safety of our student-athletes, campus personnel, working and event personnel, the Hattiesburg community and all those who attend Southern Miss athletic events.”
This meant seniors had possibly played for the last time. Questions of future eligibility and recruitment arose from the sudden suspension of seasons. Student-athletes across the country expressed the frustration of having their sport taken away.
On March 13, student-athletes saw a light when the NCAA announced an extension of eligibility.
“Council leadership agreed that eligibility relief is appropriate for all Division I Student-athletes who participated in spring sports. Details of eligibility relief will be finalized at a later date,” the NCAA said. “Additional issues with NCAA rules must be addressed, and appropriate governance bodies will work through those in the coming days and weeks.”
Whether or not seniors will take advantage of this ruling is to be determined. While some may want to finish what they started, it could also require unnecessary classes. There is also quite a gray area pertaining to recruitment.
How will scholarships work? How many athletes will be allowed on a roster? How will additional eligibility impact professional sports? Will there be an influx in athletes playing for community colleges first?
During these times of great uncertainty, the sports industry, especially collegiate sports, has great obstacles to overcome.