As the COVID-19 pandemic has extended its stay in the U.S. to five months, one group that has been affected is collegiate athletes. Many spring and summer seasons have been canceled and postponed, while others are hanging on by a thread. Now, the pandemic is affecting Fall 2020 athletes, recruits, and incomers, as well.
For many incoming collegiate athletes, a big tradition impacted by the pandemic is the signing ceremony, a momentous occasion usually conducted at the student’s high school where they pledge to the college or university where they will play. Friends, family, and coaches often celebrate this achievement with photos and interviews.
Alyssa Williams at Indiana Tech is one of many incoming collegiate athletes whose signing ceremony has been affected by COVID-19. Williams is committed to attending Tech from Dublin High School to continue her academic and athletic career on the women’s soccer team. But due to the virus, she was not allowed to sign her letter of intent at her high school. Although she feels like she missed out on an important milestone, she ended up holding a signing ceremony of her own in her backyard surrounded by a few family and friends.
Many universities are taking precautions to ensure the safety of their athletes, students, and staff’s return to campus. One challenge to a safe return is that many athletes have been testing positive for the antibodies that coronavirus is affiliated with.
This does not necessarily mean that the virus is contagious and active in them, but it heightens concerns about safety precautions, such as isolation or quarantine. For example, ESPN reported that Michigan State University had 16 student-athletes who tested positive for COVID-19
, sending its entire football program into a 14-day quarantine that ended on Aug. 4.
Another troubling factor in fighting COVID-19 within college athletics is that the precautions in place are different according to each individual league. For example, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference cancelled all fall athletics, as well as Ivy League schools. Meanwhile, some National Collegiate Athletic Association schools have postponed Fall athletics to hopefully resume in Spring 2021, and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics is still reconvening sources to either compete or drop out.
According to ESPN, “The NCAA Division I Coordination Committee granted a blanket waiver
that allows all fall sports except football the ability to play 50 percent fewer games to meet minimum requirements. The waiver applies to men's and women's cross country, men's and women's soccer, field hockey, men's water polo and women's volleyball. Conferences across the country have either pushed back the start dates for fall schedules or moved fall sports to the spring as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.”
But some incoming college athletes are not dismayed by these challenges.
Alina Garcia, a soccer commit to Indiana Tech, says that committing during this pandemic has made the experience more memorable for her, if nothing else. Instead of holding a typical ceremony at her high school, she feels that signing during the pandemic gave her friends and family more time to destress and truly celebrate the continuation of her athletics career. But for students from overseas whose families are not allowed to travel during the pandemic, starting their college athletic careers during the pandemic has been more lonesome.
Karmina Jimenez was born in Mexico and moved to the U.S. at a young age to fulfill her educational aspirations along with her family’s needs. She was prohibited from extending the invitation of her signing day to friends and family native of Mexico due to the U.S. closing borders to international travelers, so she signed her letter of intent at Indiana Tech.
Even so, Jimenez says there were not many drawbacks to her signing ceremony because she has never had a typical signing experience. It’s all a new experience.
Indiana Tech's women's soccer team holds a signing ceremony during COVID-19.
The uncertainty of this virus has made many universities and conferences afraid to resume routine seasons, which may allow for some athletes to gain an extra year of eligibility to play. The NAIA and other conferences/universities are closely monitoring COVID-19 and the impact it is having on their members.
ESPN reports, “The NCAA Board of Directors avoided making any major decisions on fall sports championships
and will instead make the decisions in August. A potential cancellation of the fall sports championships would not impact the College Football Playoff.”
If the 2020 Fall season of athletics does progress, it promises to be an unconventional one.