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What's Happening to College Athletics During COVID-19?

JUL 20, 2020 • 8 min read

As colleges and universities across the United States scramble to cover coronavirus-related financial constraints, some are sacrificing a distinctive aspect of the American experience: college athletics.

In Division I alone, more than 65 athletic teams have been eliminated over the past three months. Four schools have cut at least three sports and a fifth, Brown University, discontinued eight athletic programs. Most recently, Stanford Athletics announced that they would be cutting 11 Division 1 varsity programs, including men’s and women’s fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, men’s rowing, co-ed and women’s sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, men’s volleyball, and wrestling.

As heartbreaking as it is to see these ~65 athletic teams be discontinued, there are still thousands of opportunities to be a part of a college athletics program. There are over 300 Division 1 schools across 49 different states. There are more than 460,000 NCAA student-athletes that compete in 24 sports every year. In addition to this, there are over 20,000 international student-athletes, who receive partial or full scholarships to attend college for four years, receiving an excellent education, while playing the sport that they love. This means that there are still endless opportunities to gain admission to a US college, receive a scholarship, and compete at the highest level in college athletics.

Stay up to date with the latest information on how COVID-19 is affecting US university admissions and athletics on Crimson’s COVID-19 support page.

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So what will college athletics look like moving forward?

As the Ivy League and the Patriot League announced the cancellation of Fall sports, it is clear that the upcoming academic year will be filled with uncertainty with what is to come for college athletics. It is evident that before a ‘new normal’ can begin to take over, universities will have to find a safe way to reopen campuses. However, as we all know, there are many complex public health issues that need to be dealt with before there will be a good idea of what college sports will look like going into the future. Many coaches and administrators are confident that college athletics will continue, even if it looks a little different at this current moment.

Some football coaches have discussed the idea of hosting the football season in the spring, which may allow for other sports to participate in competition at that time too. Some programs are planning to quarantine, similar to the NBA, and play conference-only competition, as it continues to be safe to do so. It is apparent that the COVID-19 guidelines for college athletics programs are fluid and constantly changing. This means that if it is not safe to compete, then games may be canceled at the very last minute. However, if it is deemed safe to compete, then many programs will continue under these guidelines, allowing student-athletes to play against other conference programs in a safe and healthy environment.

UPDATE: As of 17th of July, Ivy League Postpones Fall Semester Sporting Competitions. Read more below.

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So what can I do if I am a high school student interested in this pathway?

For current high school students, this is the perfect time to be connecting with college coaches and initiating conversations about potentially joining their program. Many coaches are working from home, with a lot of time on their hands to speak with new recruits and start planning for the 2021-2022 season. Although there may be some uncertainty about scholarship offers, it is beneficial to build relationships with coaches, so that you are able to have honest conversations with them about financial aid, scholarships, and tuition costs.

For international students, the opportunities to be recruited are greater than they have ever been before. As COVID-19 continues to heavily impact the US, many recruiting camps and clinics have been postponed or canceled, meaning that recruits based in the US are only able to contact coaches in the same way that international students are; virtually. This levels the playing field when it comes to gaining an athletic scholarship to the US, as the domestic student-athletes are now unable to show their skills in-person, and all recruiting has been moved online. Many college coaches will be spending more time recruiting virtually, watching game film from their home, and connecting with students from all over the world.

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Why would I go to the US for college with so much uncertainty when I could just stay home?

During these difficult times, I believe that being a part of a Division 1 athletics program in the United States will be the best experience of your life. Being given the opportunity to play for Harvard Field Hockey has changed my life in ways that I cannot describe. From this, I am a better athlete, student, and person, and I am forever grateful to have been a part of such an amazing program for the past four years.

If you have the opportunity to play your sport at the highest level, while studying and living in the US, I would definitely consider giving it a go!

Maddie E. Author

Written by

Maddie E.

This article was written by recent Harvard graduate and star field hockey player, Maddie Earle. She was the co-founder and co-president of Women of Harvard Athletics.

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