You have to give overlords at the NCAA credit. As multiple institutions in the nation combat the COVID-19 pandemic on a rating scale of poorly to terrible, the NCAA has done its best job at appearing as pointless as possible.
After making the immediate, difficult, and correct decision to cancel March Madness this year, the NCAA appeared to accomplish little to nothing afterward. As the pandemic continued to rage throughout the country, upending plans for everyone in 2020, the NCAA’s best course of action was to effectively pass the buck.
Rather than come up with some overarching plan on how sports could possibly happen, some guidance on what schools can do to ensure that their student-athletes not only play, but play safely, the NCAA Board of Director’s grand scheme after months of planning was to let the specific divisions decide how to proceed.
In a time of crisis, leadership is important. There is a reason today we are reading about the Big Ten and Big Sky Conferences canceling their seasons, but not the Pac 12, not the SEC, not the ACC, and not the Big 12. In a piecemeal approach, no one ever knows what the hell is going on at any given time.
Sources: Big Ten votes to cancel football season; no games for Michigan, Michigan State in 2020 https://t.co/7emHPRAzqS— Detroit Free Press (@freep) August 10, 2020
This is the right decision, for the record. The NBA, WNBA, NHL, and MLS have clearly established the correct way for sports to go forward is in a bubble-like scenario. MLB has clearly established that letting players roam freely is not the way to hopefully completing a season.
Even throughout all of this, plenty of high-profile players in their respective sports have decided not to play because of their health or the health of their family members. Some college football players were already beginning to follow suit, and no one should fault them for prioritizing their own personal health over the NCAA profiting off their free labor.
There was always some glimmer of hope for college football because hope is all we have at this point. Perhaps one of the other conferences can somehow figure out how to successfully bubble their players (their classes are probably online anyway) and play out the conference season. Most college campuses will not be open in the traditional sense of being open anyway.
If you asked me three months ago, I would’ve said the season is happening for basketball 100 percent. After losing out on March Madness last year, the NCAA would figure out a way to make sure they don’t lose out on the boatloads of money. In this American society we live in, the only thing that actually talks is money.
Now, I am very much not so sure. I consider it my own stupidity for putting any semblance of faith into the NCAA to figure out a coherent plan, mainly because the only thing the NCAA does better than punishing its players for being homeless, receiving sandwiches, and parking passes, is passing the buck.
(Quick note: This is the best violation I’ve ever seen: In 2013, three University of Oklahoma football players were required to donate $3.83 per person to charity after eating more pasta than NCAA regulations allowed during a graduation banquet.)
Many of us will bemoan any collapse of a college basketball season because of the title hopes Gonzaga holds to start the season. We should not, however, forget how a collapse of a season affects many people in very real ways. Sports production teams have no sports to produce. Employees of arenas have no games to work around. Sports journalists are getting laid off because there is no sport to cover. The list will go on and on as we try and navigate this full-blown shithole known as the year 2020.
For me, this season was supposed to be an interesting one. Eight months ago, I was planning a wedding in October. Then my soon-to-be wife and I were going to go traveling for two months around the world and I would figure out how to watch Gonzaga games from harder timezones. Eight months ago, my biggest worry was missing Gonzaga games.
That eight months ago feels like forever ago. This pandemic absolutely annihilated everything we have worked for. I sit here typing feeling lucky because I am still gainfully employed and we can still make ends meet. In terms of being affected by this pandemic, like everyone else, we are losing and grieving, just not permanently. We haven’t lost any family members or friends to COVID-19.
I’m in no way asking for any sympathy. It is what it is. What I am asking for though, is a bit of humanity going forward. We are all in similar boats. Everyone has lost something, some more important than others. There is a good chance we will be processing this all together in a couple of months.