The college sports conundrum

Photo Courtesy|heidicohen
When NCAA sports do return, will fans be there to watch them?

The NCAA faces many big questions in the coming months

COVID-19 is, of course, affecting us in big ways. For all the students at NDSU, classes were moved to online. For the state of North Dakota and many others, many businesses, restaurants and other services are and were shut down. Lastly, there’s the world of sports. NBA and NHL got shut down midseason and MLB never even got a chance to start.

Spring sports for NCAA had to be stopped as well including everyone’s favorite, March Madness. However, the coronavirus may still be around come the fall and many of these sports organizations will have to have plans set in place on how to handle business in our new world.

For and NFL or NBA it’s a different situation. With the players being paid professionals and only 30 equally weighted teams to deal with, the situation is still difficult, but easier none the less. One of the currently proposed plans is to quarantine all the teams in Disney World for a month to finish out their season, or at least the playoffs. Similar ideas have been discussed by the other major leagues as well.

However, the NCAA has a different challenge. There are lots of layers of bureaucracy for the NCAA to weave through. Federal and state governments, colleges and universities, coaches and staff and students and players are all groups that need to all be on the same page for this to work.

NCAA has a lot more teams and programs than in the professional leagues. In college football alone there are 130 teams stretching across all 50 states.

It poses a lot of questions still yet to be answered. Would some conferences play and others not? Would certain teams be able to join a different conference just for the year? There’s also the chance that individual universities would choose to pause athletics as well. Could NDSU let athletics continue and UND nog?

Regardless, there will be a lot to untangle for the people at the NCAA. It’s unlikely that players will choose to sit out to the point where teams can’t play. Many athletes in sports like football or basketball are still looking for that chance to jump to the next level. This does bring up the topic of smaller sports though. This is your sports that don’t bring in as much revenue like golf, swimming, fencing and so on.

These sports are not as big and widespread, so there may not be as much support to generate complex action plans for them for the 2020-21 school year. However, in a sport like golf where there’s limited contact between athletes, they could do well in this time compared to the complexity of conducting basketball games that have lots of contact.

There are a lot more factors and threads compared to the pro sports who each can delegate their own individual sport and don’t have to worry about university presidents and have abilities to quarantine their entire player base.

The only plans set out by the NCAA thus far have been three-phase plans with each needing at least two weeks to carry one to the next. Before anything can start, the state, a college or university is within, must have a downward trend of numbers of cases for two weeks. That paired with a social distancing plan for the university means phase one can begin. After that, if all goes well every two-weeks begins a new phase with looser and looser restrictions. Phase one has no more than groups of 10 and limited in-person visits, two bumps the number up to 50 with more allowance to in-person visits and if three is reached, allows full opening and access to all facilities.

This is, of course, subject to change. It’s only early May after all. Regardless, it could mean seasons might get push back to later dates, some teams might not get to play and some seasons may not get to start at all.

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