By Christopher Wrenn
On March 12th when the NCAA officially announced the cancellation of all spring sports, the coronavirus got serious for many Americans. It became clear that the impact of the virus would be much longer lasting than many had originally predicted. As we move deeper into the Spring, the lasting impact of the virus is yet to be seen.
The first round of cancellations bringing an end to winter sports, most notably the NCAA basketball tournament, was just the tip of the iceberg, but damaging to many NCAA institutions and athletes. From an athlete side, many players, seniors especially, had played their last ever games and due to how deep into the season it was, many of those players likely played their last game. However, the impact of this cancellation goes beyond just student athletes. Schools are being devastated. Millions of dollars are being lost, and many schools had used tournament success to fund their athletics budget. Another looming fear is that the virus will linger for another twelve months and force the NCAA to cancel the fall season. This impact would be catastrophic for athletics, especially the power 5 conferences who generate millions a year off fall football. The cancellation of fall athletics could completely change the landscape of college athletics.
Although the impact of coronavirus on colleges is not completely clear, the potential impact is horrifying. The cost associated with refunding students for room and board alone for the semester they spent learning remotely will cost schools millions. Additionally, school
enrollment numbers are likely to take a hit and face difficulties recovering as the economic impact from the virus look to be major. Schools are currently bleeding money from many different areas, and 30% of schools are already operating off deficits (Jensen). With schools losing money like this, athletics are often going to be an easy place to find a way to cut costs. The athletics expansion of facilities across the country that has been going on in recent years is almost guaranteed to be halted, as many colleges will likely take fiscally conservative approaches to navigating these uncertain times. What is certain though is that college athletics in 2021 will look a lot different than in 2019 and years prior.
Budget cuts across colleges in general will shape the lives of many Americans. For starters, jobs will be loss with Temple already laying off 5% of their staff in general, and University of Bridgeport beginning to lay off athletic staff. Perspective students are also being impacted with the inability to do on campus visits. Lower income students will also suffer as with athletic aid being cut; they may struggle to afford to pay for college in general. This along with the impending recession may contribute to increased enrollment at the community college level. Another impact on the individual level is that for the athletes whose teams get cut, which is a possibility for many non-revenue sports, their athletic careers will come to a sudden end. Fortunately, the NCAA has granted every spring student athlete an additional season of eligibility, but this does not help every athlete. This will become an issue for roster spots, along with athletic aid. As for seniors, many will seize the opportunity and return for one more year of eligibility. However, many seniors will not be able to take this opportunity and be forced to move on as they will be graduating and entering a work force that is now more uncertain than ever. Uncertainty will be a common theme in these upcoming months as the NCAA, along with the world, struggle to deal with Covid-19.