Grappling with the Safe Return to Sports

Oh, the return of a new academic year. August means back to school, college move-in, and the beginning of the Fall sports schedule. Historically, that is. However, the fall semester of 2020 will undoubtedly be anything but traditional.

First, school districts, colleges, and universities nationwide feel the ambiguity this academic year has in store. What do the next few months have in store for higher education?  There are delayed class starts, hybrid or virtual learning, and the suspension/postponement of fall sports?

Next, this will be a semester of adjustment and patience. Conflicting viewpoints on in-person versus virtual education make it extremely difficult to justify hosting an athletic competition. If K-12 and college education are online to promote social distancing, can schools in good conscience compete athletically? This is a question that you can decide for yourself. However, here are a few items to consider:

College Football Ad Revenue

  • In 2019-2020, the two networks generated ~$760 million in advertising revenue during the college football season alone
  • Several conferences in NCAA Division 1 postponed fall championships with anticipation to play in the spring. NCAA Division 2 and 3, NAIA, and NJCAA also intend to compete during the spring.

Student Emotional Well-being

Further, the emotional well-being of students at the high school and college-level remains a concern. According to NBC News, more than half of 50,307 college students who participated in the American College Health Association’s Spring 2020 National College Health Assessment reported receiving mental health services from their current campus health or counseling center in the last year. Those numbers are expected to increase as students return to college this fall dramatically, experts predict.

Finally, the debate remains at large about the safe return to sports. The numbers shared here are not indicators of future peril. They’re just statistics. Television networks will rebound. However, if the Walt Disney Company has a say in whether televised sports will occur, what do you think their disposition would be?

In conclusion, there is no perfect solution. Studies show that the [safe] participation in athletics at a young age has positive effects from emotional and physical development. However, can we realistically place a higher priority on athletics over academics? It is a question academia will defend this academic year.

Read the full NBC News article here:


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