Pros and Cons: College Athletes Returning for Workouts During Pandemic
Over the last three months, the coronavirus pandemic has altered the sports world like never before, featuring cancellations and reschedulings for most sports leagues across the world. Now that professional organizations and college campuses are working toward return-to-play formats for their athletes by bringing them back for workouts, many inside these programs have tested positive for COVID-19.
This poses the highly debated question through this process—is it a good idea to bring college athletes back to campus? Unlike student-athletes, professional sports figures are being compensated for the resumption of play. That being said, some of these college athletes could be financially dependant on their scholarship stipends, grants or financial aid.
It's been just a little over three weeks since the NCAA allowed campuses to reopen facilities for voluntary summer workouts. Since the reopening of universities, the numbers have shot up for positive cases at schools. Schools that have had positive cases of the coronavirus include Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Boise State, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Houston, Iowa, Iowa State, Kentucky, LSU, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, Michigan, Michigan State, Mississippi State, North Texas, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Texas State, UTSA, West Virginia, among others.
In cases like Clemson, where 28 members of the football program tested positive, the team previously administered 315 tests with just two players positive. The Lone Star State has been hit hard with rising positive cases as well. The Longhorns, Aggies, Red Raiders, Bobcats, Mean Green and Roadrunners have all had positive tests inside their athletic programs.
On the other hand, you look at a program like UCLA, which had 30 players demand the university provide a third-party health official to ensure COVID-19 protocols are properly followed, along with a "whistle-blower protection to report violations, and the right for players to decide whether to attend sports events without fear of retaliation or loss of scholarships, according to their demands. College athletes are rightfully concerned.
The paying college athletes topic has more fuel now more than ever before. What's the argument against it? College athletes will irresponsibly spend their money? Get out of here.
Let's not sugar coat the situation though. Most athletes, ranging from 18 years old to 24, are asymptomatic with the virus and continue to spread it to others on campus. The same way that the NCAA requires each athlete to have their meningitis shots makes it a bit hypocritical how they are allowing college athletes back to campus amid the pandemic.
There's a likelihood that some universities hold the upcoming semester entirely remotely. How can a school justify bringing back sports when they can't even allow students back to campus?
On the flip side, 86 percent of college athletes live below the poverty line, according to the National College Players Association. If these college athletes don't have the resources to be tested for the virus at home or if they aren't able to get proper care if they exhibit symptoms, it could be a grim off-the-field situation for those that can't return to campus. Whereas on campus, they will have access to daily health screenings and health centers.
There's many ways colleges could decide to go about this. The NCAA could mandate that all student-athlete scholarships will be protected for the 2020-21 academic year should a student-athlete refuse to return to campus this year. The UCLA model of having a third-party health official on campus should be mandated nationwide for each Division I athletic department.
Gameplan. Prevent. Educate. Administer. That's all these universities can do now as players continue their offseason workout programs.
The one certainty is our uncertainty with the virus. As positive cases rise, the return-to-play formats of many sports organizations will be closely monitored and will have a direct impact on the fall sports slate.