NCAA poorly manages return of football

Anna Albergo, Editor

The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated plans regarding the new fall season for many groups including the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The NCAA has been faced with the issue to decide whether to host sporting events in a global health crisis or wait to have a season. Overall, their actions have been disappointing and disorganized. Perhaps the most obvious example is the handling of college football. 

The NCAA has little control over the power five conferences which include the Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Southeastern Conference (SEC), Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and Pac-12 Conference. These five conferences are the best five in the league in terms of ability and profit. Over time, each has evolved to make more and more of its own decisions, increasing their distance from the NCAA’s control. As a result, the decisions on the return of college football were not uniform. 

Originally, the ACC, SEC and Big 12 were going to play modified seasons. These modified seasons consisted of a shortened schedule with most games against conference opponents. Meanwhile, the Big 10 and Pac-12 decided to cancel their seasons in hopes of possibly having a spring season. The Big Ten reversed their decision on Sept 16 after announcing on Aug 11 that they would not play. Similarly, the Pac-12 publicly stated on Sept. 24 that they would have a modified season even though on Aug. 11 they said they wouldn’t play any sports until 2021. Both leagues created a modified schedule beginning in late October or early November. This complicated order of decisions sent mixed messages to fans across the country.

Additionally, it is hard to believe each conference when they claim that they are being safe and responsible and that their decisions are based upon the input of medical professionals when all their decisions are different and on contrasting timelines. The Big Ten backed their decision to cancel back in August based on conversations with their “Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases” and “Big Ten Sports Medicine Committee.” After hours of discussing they said, “There was too much uncertainty regarding potential medical risks.” Around the same time the ACC backed their decision to play football based on the advice from their “Medical Advisory Group” and the “best available medical guidelines.” How can both groups be believed that their decision is safe when the situation around the country is relatively the same?

This indicates that these decisions were economically motivated because to colleges, football is a business. In 2018, the University of Alabama made $177 million off football alone. After a spring with no sports or students, colleges lost money and are therefore eager to earn it back in any form possible. It is disappointing that colleges around the country are overlooking their student-athletes health to focus on economic incentives.

The decisions also lack consistency with those of colleges and the community. At the University of North Carolina, students were sent home after an outbreak on campus, but athletes were allowed to stay if they were willing to take the risk. Similarly, the University of Alabama reported over 2500 cases by the beginning of October, but head coach Nick Saban didn’t see a problem with playing football. He said, “They’re going to catch it on campus. The argument should probably be, ‘We shouldn’t be having school.’”

In a time where health should be prioritized, it has been disappointing to see the NCAA’s disorganized decisions play out. As COVID-19 lingers, it will be interesting to see if they finally draw a line and seriously fight for the safety of their players, coaches, schools and communities.