Over the past week, the Virginia High School League has sent out three news releases related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
One re-emphasizes the current guidelines for practicing, which have not changed. Another assures that the VHSL is currently developing plans for reopening sports and activities in the fall. The final one touts the National Federation of High School Federation Associations’ guidelines that may be considered for re-opening activities.
If we’re reading between the lines correctly, it certainly seems like the VHSL is fielding plenty of inquiries over what is going to happen in the fall.
And we’re guessing that’s because there’s a genuine desire out there for athletics to come back as soon as possible.
And that’s not exclusive to Virginia.
There is a growing tide to have sports at all levels return as soon as it is feasible and to many that means by this fall.
NASCAR got the ball rolling with a pair of races at Darlington this week and will be in action again this weekend at Charlotte. No fans attended those races.
The remainder of the professional sports leagues are trying to follow suit. As usual, baseball owners and players are arguing about money, which threatens whether the MLB will finally get going.
Golf is on the horizon and the Triple Crown in horse racing finally has some dates set.
But maybe the most encouraging news is that many four-year colleges are announcing that they plan to have in-person classes in the fall. In conjunction with that, many of those schools expect athletics will be on the fall schedule, too.
That’s welcome news for athletes, even the ones who don’t compete in the fall.
A potential loss of college football revenue would be devastating to athletic departments at all levels. At most schools, football revenue pays for nearly all of the other sports.
The other big money maker in Division I is the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and as we know this year that didn’t happen. That was a huge blow to the mid-major conferences.
And even if football returns, there’s talk of restricting crowds from anywhere to a quarter to a half of the stadium size. If that happens, that’s another chunk of revenue lost that will trickle down to the sports which do not turn a profit.
Already schools (many you wouldn’t expect) are chopping non-revenue sports. Old Dominion (wrestling), Cincinnati (men’s soccer), Bowling Green (baseball), East Carolina (men’s and women’s swimming and men’s and women’s tennis) and Akron (men’s cross country, women’s tennis and men’s golf) are just some of the Division I schools slashing programs thanks to the pandemic. Expect more to follow.
While we’ve heard the loss of spring sports was effectively a break-even deal for many high schools, the loss of fall sports would be felt. No booster association, no matter how good it is, will be able to cover that revenue shortfall.
In talking with so many seniors since coronavirus disrupted their graduations, special activities and yes, even their sports careers, you can feel the pain. You hope that won’t be extended through the fall.
In a recent survey, 65 percent of college students want to attend in-person classes, despite the risk of the virus.
We’re betting that most of those students know that the learning process is heightened by attending class, instead of watching it on a laptop.
We’re sure high school students and their parents are now painfully aware of the same thing. Virtual learning isn’t optimum learning. And you can’t learn the many lessons that sports teach you from the computer screen, either.
Sure there’s going to be some challenges and certainly there is risk when physical contact is a part of what you are doing. Hopefully if schools open, the people making the guidelines will use some common sense.
Folks are clamoring for an answer. We hope it’s the right one.