In a surprising move, the Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big East have decided to, in my opinion, cancel fall sports. These conferences are hoping to potentially move the sports into the spring. These sports include football, cross-country, soccer, field hockey and volleyball. This is unfortunate as it will likely prevent play for the biggest winter sport, college basketball. While none of these conferences has issued a statement regarding men’s basketball, some of the wording for the statement on fall sports has me worried. For example, the wording “no fall competition” makes me believe that these student athletes are likely not going to have scheduled practices.
If these student athletes are lucky enough to be able to do training at home, the inability to have a coach or teammate help push them has me worried for player health. This could include potential injuries once practice starts or even tears or strains from inappropriate technique or structure.
Another issue is that pushing back or postponing these sports makes a huge mess for all sports and schedules. Both conference have mentioned potentially doing only conference schedules, but there is still an issue with how to rank these schools if other conferences move forward. Other schools could have better rankings due to potential non-conference schedules that were previously set up with the Big Ten and Pac 12. If there is a tournament, these schools may have to struggle as a lower conference has more teams and more time to practice and play.
Another potential issue is that this could cause larger COVID-19 clusters. Student athletes that were previously working out in groups will be forced to use the same equipment with winter sports athletes. While there is a lot of strength and conditioning for these student athletes, the times are usually more spread out as sports go on at different times. Now, there will likely be higher overlap of winter and spring sports.
Speaking of strength and conditioning of athletes, the number of training and support staff definitely comes into play. This staff usually has a heavy schedule already with fall sports, but adding in winter and potentially spring sports is a lot. The capacity of staff to safely and effectively wrap and assists athletes has me worried.
Another issue that comes up is the one surrounding scholarships. I do not think it would be fair if I was a senior and the conference took away half my season as I tried to make myself marketable to potential professional aspirations. This could cause a majority of seniors to opt out of this year and move into next year. A ripple effect happens here as well with incoming freshmen realizing that they have to wait an additional year to get playing time or a younger player that was hoping to start losing that chance. This could cause a lot of potential changes for recruits if other conferences move on. As of now, the ACC, Big 12 and SEC have not made a decision, but are seemingly moving forward with fall sports.
Wrapping up, I think this is smart move for maintaining health of all students (at least for the Pac-12, where COVID-19 is a serious issue). Now, there will be a bigger issue if all conferences cancel fall sports. The smaller schools that depend on fall and winter sports for revenue could find themselves in a tight spot. The amount of students, coaches and athletes that will be forced into difficult situations will be another big hit to the economy. I hope that moving forward the schools continue to take into account the opinions of health professionals, the student athletes, the coaches, and the trainers. These groups are the ones putting their livelihood on the lines.