College sports are back! Kind of. COVID-19 prematurely ended the college basketball season for both men and women. Now, it threatens to postpone or suspend the 2020-21 college football and basketball seasons. However, good news was just handed down by the NCAA alluding to the possible return of college sports.
The Possible Return of College Sports
The NCAA Division I Council approved voluntary activities for men’s and women’s college basketball beginning June 1st and continuing through June 30th. While this is just a minor step, one that mimics NBA teams reopening facilities, it spreads light on the hope for a full 2020-21 season. It is well known that fans will not be in attendance for most, if not all, of the season, but to even have a season at this point feels like a major win.
Sources: The NCAA Division I Council voted to approve voluntary athletic activities in football, MBB and WBB to start June 1st and go through June 30th. There had been a moratorium on that through May 31st. Other sports will be acted on on a later date.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) May 20, 2020
What Does This Mean?
Honestly, not a ton. Players will be allowed on campus to work out voluntarily, under the guidance of some assistant coaches. There will obviously be major precautions taken with temperature checks and proper protective equipment. From a truly developmental perspective, players will not get a ton out of this because there are no team sessions. However, coaches can start to form relationships with players. Most importantly, they no longer have to communicate through a screen.
Notably, this does not include recruiting visits. Teams will not be able to host any recruits other than virtually, as they have been.
There are some concerns, of course. First, getting players to campus safely will be a challenge. Most likely, teams will not be permitted to use private planes to get players on campus. Living on campus and getting food will also be a battle.
Additionally, there will be several cases of players who do not report. Again, these workouts are voluntary, but they may feel pressured to return.
Step One of the Return
This is the first, and a very necessary, step to having college sports back on televisions all across the country. Ideally, everyone stays healthy and the program goes off without a hitch. That would put us on track to enjoy a full college basketball season.
College basketball begins in early November. If June ends with players back on campus and a very small to zero number of players falling ill, that November start looks very promising. Colleges around the country have already begun plans to change semesters and alter courses, which actually may help college sports.
Alteration of College Schedules
Several schools, most notably Syracuse and South Carolina, have decided to accelerate their fall semesters and end classes on Thanksgiving for a long winter break. The goal is to take students off-campus for the return of flu season, and worst-case scenario, a return of COVID-19.
The reason this is helpful for student-athletes is that it limits their exposure to large crowds of people as schools will be mainly empty by the time the season hits its second month. Some University Presidents have mentioned they will not allow sports if students are not allowed on campus, but this seems like solid middle ground.
Is College Basketball Really Back?
Unfortunately, not yet. There are still many targets that need to be achieved, mainly more testing and a way to handle possible positive COVID-19 cases. However, this is getting us one step closer to much-needed sporting events.
Most importantly, the safety of the student-athletes is of the utmost importance. Even though it sometimes does not feel like it, student-athletes are regular people too. They should not be prodded out in unsafe conditions, just for the entertainment of others.
With all that being said, here is to being hopeful. There is a college basketball season on the horizon. Until then, stay healthy.
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