No word can describe the past week in sports.
No means of preparation could’ve foreseen the mass cancellation of events across the globe. The 2020 NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments, the winter and spring NCAA championships and numerous spring sports have been canceled. The NBA, NHL, MLS and top-division soccer leagues in the world have put a halt on their seasons. MLB has canceled spring training and delayed the beginning of the 2020 regular season. And it’s all been done in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19.
For the first time in nearly a century, sports have been put on pause for the foreseeable future.
This puts people who have positions of power in peculiar situations. The NCAA and major sports leagues have plans in the event of an epidemic, but the timing of the coronavirus pandemic forces key decisions to be made that will have a ripple effect. Those outcomes will alter the careers of many, but most notably, those in college sports.
Many schools — including JMU — have canceled all sports for the remainder of the season. While the winter sports that were still in play had finished the majority of their respective seasons, spring sports had only just gotten started. Most hadn’t even started conference play, giving all the cause for an extra year of eligibility to be awarded to every athlete playing a spring sport.
So far, the NCAA has announced it agrees with the notion that eligibility relief should be granted to spring-sport athletes, but the logistics of how it would be carried out are still being worked on. It’s banned in-person recruiting and suspended official and unofficial on-campus visits from athletes, beginning a dead period until April 15.
JMU has suspended all athletics and canceled the remaining schedules for the 2020 spring season. This includes football’s spring practices and the annual spring game, which was scheduled to take place April 18.
It makes sense for the NCAA to move forward with the plan to grant eligibility to spring athletes. With the Division III Administrative Committee announcing spring athletes have been granted another semester/season of eligibility and will be provided assistance with travel, lodging and meals because of campus closures, it implies that similar action for each division is imminent — and the correct thing to do.
The effect of this is simple. Seasoned athletes will get an extra year of training to become better, and young underclassmen will have the opportunity to develop, helping their careers for years to come. Coaches in all sports will have to adjust recruiting tactics, as the only means of contact for the next month is via telephone calls or written correspondence.
How recruiting will be carried out once the dead period expires in mid-April will be determined based on the status of the pandemic. The measures taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus could slow the growth, allowing sporting organizations to make the decision to resume play. However, if the virus follows its trend and more people are diagnosed, adjustments will have to be made again.
What’s known is that March Madness won’t occur, spring sports won’t fulfill their seasons and the consequences will affect all sports. Fall sports won’t have spring practices to implement tactics and acclimate freshmen and transfers, hurting schools with high roster turnover and coaches entering their first season. Winter sports won’t get the chance to crown champions.
The effects of coronavirus put a heartbreaking pause and end to many careers. For the time being, sports can’t serve as the escape for many. The only option is to wait and watch events unfold, and the decisions made in the meantime will have a drastic impact on the imminent landscape of collegiate athletics.
Contact Noah Ziegler at email@example.com. For more coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.