By Nathan Hakakian, Business Editor
As the Fall 2020 semester rapidly approaches, college students are preparing to return to school. Some will return to campus with recently implemented health protocols, others will be fully remote, and some colleges are opting to integrate a hybrid learning environment. What is more certain is the state of college sports. While many professional sports leagues (NBA, MLB, MLS) have already adjusted new policies to protect their sports, college football has failed to make the necessary adjustments to ensure a season.
The sad reality is that because of their amateur status, these college athletes may not be able to display their talents. Many of these athletes have sacrificed so much in their lives for a chance at going professional and capitalizing on their talents. Some are freshmen who are looking to make their mark, while others are seniors who are looking for that last chance to prove themselves. College sports have rescued many of them from a life of crime or poverty and opened doors and opportunities they could never have dreamed of. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has deprived these student-athletes to pursue their dreams at the highest level.
On a list of priorities during a 6-month-plus pandemic, sports would not rank amongst the top. There are countries that have been hammered by desperation, with cases rising daily. This article is not intended to discount the severity of the glaring issue at hand. But what is often lost in these unforeseen circumstances is the ability to seize the moment and capitalize on an opportunity. Many of us are quarantined and have not been able to live our lives as planned. But when our lives return to some semblance of nearly normal, how many of us will ask ourselves: “What did I achieve or learn during this quarantine?” “What opportunities did I miss out on and is there any way I could get those back?” I believe that college sports having a fall season is a cause worth fighting for because of the doors and possibilities it opens for the next generation. If professional sports found a way to organize the logistics, venues, and most importantly the safety of those involved, who’s to say the same could not be done for college athletes?
In an effort to raise awareness for this issue, college athletes themselves have taken the matter into their own hands. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields have been at the forefront of this endeavor. This campaign, known primarily as the “#letthemplay” movement, has sparked debate nationally. Lawrence’s tweet inspired many athletes to speak up, even receiving a retweet from president Trump. As of 7:30 p.m. EST on August 16, Fields’ petition had over 175,000 signatures.
Despite the immense support, many of the athletic directors have voted either to push back the season to the spring or for an outright cancellation. A recently conducted study has shown a rare heart condition, Myocarditis, that is linked with COVID-19. These findings have led to conferences, such as the Power Five and Mountain West Conferences to cancel their season, while the Big Ten and Pac-12 Conferences have opted to postpone their season. The SEC and the Big 12, however, have not announced plans to postpone their season. The question begs: Why is there so much disconnect between these conferences? College football alone generates $31.9 million annually, yet NCAA President Mark Emmert has failed to create a structured dialogue amongst all the conferences. The NCAA prides itself as an entity representing the better interest of student-athletes across the country, yet they have repeatedly failed to look out for the amateurs. College sports had 6 months to find a solution and have made close to no progress.
The severity regarding COVID-19 is still at large, as its effects have crippled the world we once knew. It has forced us to reassess mundane tasks and all the more so crucial decisions. College athletic associations have withheld payment from millions of athletes since its inception as it continues to handsomely profit through lucrative television and apparel deals. Now more than ever would be the proper time to pay the student athletes. Treat them fairly in a give-and-take relationship, one that truly has the student’s best interests in mind. I believe that students should be allowed to play this fall, as long as they sign a waiver that highlights the potential risks. Every time a college athlete steps on to a field or an arena, they are aware that an injury for example, could jeopardize their professional career. These are young adults who are capable of making their own decisions, putting their lives into their own hands. The NCAA should try to rectify what is left of a potential fall season, and if the students want to play, then #letthemplay.