| The Ledger
The dominoes are starting to fall and there’s no telling when they’ll stop.
It started in March as the coronavirus knocked down the winter sports championships across all collegiate levels, and then what was left of the spring sports seasons.
It continued into the summer, as baseball’s minor leagues tumbled over under the weight of COVID-19 concerns, costing those collegiate players even more time to play a game at a level they’ve aspired their whole lives to reach.
Then, as the long slow fall of the next block reached across summer and toppled the fall sports seasons of the Sunshine State Conference and the NJCAA, and then the fall sports championships of NCAA Division II and III, we were left to wonder what would be next?
We’re starting to find out, as the Mid-American Conference became the first major NCAA Division I league to at least postpone its football season until spring.
That’s led to widespread speculation that the entire fall football season would soon be next.
If that domino falls, that leaves a mighty big cloud over the winter sports season. Meaning we will have come full circle back to basketball.
Florida Southern College men’s basketball coach, Mike Donnelly, and women’s basketball coach, Betsy Harris, have high hopes that something will change for the positive by the time it comes for tip-off of their respective seasons.
With the way things are going now however, it’s not hard to imagine basketball arenas across the country to be absent of swooshing nets and squeaking sneakers.
“As of right now, I’m confident,” Donnelly said. “(The season) has already been modified, and will probably continue to be modified. We’re supposed to open on Nov. 14, but I don’t know if that’s going to happen.”
One thing that Donnelly and Harris both believe is that the NCAA is committed to providing a season for its winter and spring sports teams, especially because those athletes who are returning missed out last year.
That’s something every coach, not just those taking up residence underneath Jenkins Field House’s bunker of offices, wants to avoid.
Another year of not playing being able to play.
“I feel bad for the fall athletes,” Harris said. “There’s not really a lot you can say. We know what it’s like to work so hard and for it to get ripped away from you. Now they’re getting everything ripped away. We’ve done a really good job as an athletic department to be there for one another. We’re one big family, and we’re just trying to help each other out right now. Hopefully, we’ll have winter and spring sports, and that can kind of help heal a lot of things. You don’t have a lot of school spirit when you don’t have sports going on.”
It’s clear, at least in the case of the NCAA, that for now, it’s just not worth putting their students in what they consider jeopardy.
The Sun Conference, of the NAIA, is committed to playing a fall sports season with an exorbitant amount of restrictions in place.
As time goes on, and as the athletes have begun to funnel back onto campus, it remains to be seen if one little outbreak will scuttle those plans.
It’s a risk that some are willing to take, and others aren’t for sure, but what is surely at the forefront of everyone’s decisions is the safety and well-being of the athletes involved.
“Eventually this has to end,” Donnelly said. “The best thing we can do is stay positive until we hear otherwise. We have to operate as if we’re getting ready for the season. All staff and coaches have an obligation this year, even more so, to the health and safety of our student athletes. If any of our guys are showing symptoms, there can’t be any reluctance to say something. We just have to be responsible.
“I think everybody wants to have a season, but if it jeopardizes anyone’s health,we just have to be honest and look at it from that standpoint. Players have this small window to capitalize on being an athlete, and their window closes every day. I get how anxious they are of wanting to play, but our perspective to the forseeable future has got to change.”
With all these dominoes crashing down, it’s hard to see any positive future for college sports, but there’s always hope that the path can change.
If not, it’s gonna be a long, silent winter, and maybe an even quieter spring.
And that’s something nobody wants.
Reach Ray Beasock at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-802-7553. Follow Ray on Twitter: @itsBEASOCK or @Ledger_Colleges.