There is no denying that the COVID-19 has changed the world. One area that has seen tremendous change is intercollegiate sports. When the pandemic hit in early 2020, the world stopped. For colleges, campuses emptied and classrooms went virtual. For college sports, games were cancelled, stadiums and practice facilities suddenly became quiet.
As the medical and scientific community has learned more about the virus, “normal” activities have started to resume. With the advent of a vaccine and an increased understanding about how the disease spreads, college sports are back. But things are a little different.
Biggest Impact COVID-19 had on sports
Chris Brown, a former NCAA staffer and current consultant and lecturer of Sports Management at the University of Kansas, is deeply connected to college sports and trying to find his way through this tremendous season of change. “If you go back to May or June 2020, we weren’t even sure if we were going to be able to do sports,” he recalls. “The impact on players mentally and physically was tough.”
According to Brown, the biggest impact of COVID-19 on the institutional side was monetary. “March Madness being shut down in 2020 sent shockwaves through the entire athletic college system,” says Brown. “It impacted all divisions. That meant each institution was going to miss out on that revenue for at least another year. Everyone was starting behind.” Because the 2020 season was essentially “a wash” in many sports, some seniors opted to stay in college another year to have another opportunity to play. The NCAA also relaxed transfer rules so athletes could have a chance to play somewhere closer to home or maximize their chances of getting playing time with a different program. Everything was in flux.
How COVID-19 affected recruiting
The nationwide shutdown of sports and educational institutions also threw recruiting for a loop. Recruiters couldn’t travel to see prospects who, for a period of time, weren’t able to play. When travel and sports did resume, it was more difficult to schedule games, which made it challenging for prospects to get in front of scouts. To some extent that continues to be a problem. Because of carryover from the 2020 season, there aren’t as many spots on rosters and coaches have to make tough decisions about whether to stick with a seasoned player or take a risk with an untested new recruit.
In spite of the negatives, Brown is optimistic about the future. “We are in a much better place than last year. Even with the Delta variant not helping matters, at least we know we can play sports and play it safely,” Brown says. For his consulting work, Brown travels the country working with colleges and universities helping them set up systems that comply with NCAA guidelines. He has been excited to see most sports return and college sports fans returning to the stands. More than ever, colleges and universities need to focus on student safety. At colleges big and small there has been a huge investment in PPE, COVID-19 testing and compliance with state and local public health regulations. Colleges focused on providing a quality experience while keeping everyone safe.
With the challenges COVID-19 has brought to recruiting, Brown encourages aspiring college athletes to “embrace the digital space.”
How SDS helps
With games and tournaments streaming online and apps like Signing Day Sports giving student-athletes a platform to showcase their abilities, there are actually more opportunities to get in front of scouts. “In some ways, athletes are in a better position. There is an ability to be discovered now — and not just by the Power 5,” says Brown. “Be an active consumer in this process. Make sure that if a coach is looking for you online, they can find you.”
Another thing prospects can do, as always, is make sure their grades are good. “Be open to all offers,” Brown advises. COVID-19 has certainly changed the game, but there are still many scholarship opportunities and places to play for those with the skills and perseverance to make it happen. “The landscape of college athletics has shifted with a lot of retirements, but also opportunities for new leaders and a new vision for the future. You can truly be a game-changer.”