Morehouse College and Riverside Military Academy were the first. But many schools are weighing the thought of canceling fall sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The most difficult part is gauging when to make that decision. What are the costs of being first?
We all want our sports. As COVID-19 continues to change our lives and we transition to the much-clichéd new normal, the million dollar question(s) is when does it end? When is it safe to resume normal life? What the heck are herd immunity and mortality rates?
Certainly it has forced us to look at and evaluate how we approach and live our everyday lives and how we can better protect ourselves from our environment. But we’re all still itching to get back some semblance of normalcy.
High schools and colleges around the country are balancing those ideas as they are predicting what will happen in the fall. A pool of experts and personnel are going through every scenario to see how they can not only safely have sports in the fall, but safely have students attend classes.
Some schools, however, have already made that decision.
Riverside Military Academy, a high school in Gainesville, Georgia, was the first, as they elected to cancel all fall sports for the 2020 season. At the collegiate level, Morehouse College in Atlanta, one of the top rated HBCU schools in the country, followed suit by canceling all of their fall sports.
Riverside said that the cost of sports in the fall was too much after the economic hit due to the pandemic. Morehouse said that it was the best decision for the safety of their players and athletes.
With two months until the beginning of sports, is it wise to make this decision now? We look to France to answer these questions.
France’s Ligue 1 is considered one of the top soccer leagues in the world. It sits near the top with the English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga, and Italy’s Serie A as one of the biggest and most talented leagues. They also have some of the major stars of the game of soccer in Brazil’s Neymar and France’s Kylian Mbappé. It’s a respected league in the world.
On April 28, still early for pandemic standards, France’s Prime Minister Edouard Philippe canceled all sports until September. They were the first to cancel their season of the major leagues.
“The big sporting affairs cannot occur before September,” Phillippe said at a national assembly. “The 2019-20 professional football season cannot return.”
At the time, there was a close race in Ligue 1 for Champions League and Europa League qualifications, which goes to the four teams in the league. It’s a tournament for some of the top teams around Europe, and millions of dollars were at stake for the teams to qualify.
At the time, Ligue 1 was lauded for being ahead of the curve in terms of safety. But now? The other four major leagues in Europe have all returned to play. In America, the professional sports that were affected by the pandemic are preparing their return, while the NFL is continuing as scheduled.
One team president said that he requested the league begin play once again. A Ligue 1 player told ESPN that “it looks stupid that we are the only ones not playing.”
What was once a smart move now seems to be jumping the gun. And deciding in June that it is unsafe to play in August could do the same for college and high school programs. Many of the top players at Riverside will likely transfer out to programs still competing, and the financial ramifications of Morehouse College canceling their fall sports could have a major impact on their athletics department. This is not simply a one-year decision. It’s a decision that can impact the program financially and competitively for the next five to 10 years.
Morehouse and Riverside could suffer the same fate as Ligue 1 and fall behind.
Of course, if in August things are still bad, then the safety of the players, coaches, and fans should be the top priority. We should all listen to medical experts and follow safety practices until it is safe.
But it isn’t necessary to make a decision yet. Patience typically prevails in these scenarios, and with two months still left before kickoff, that decision shouldn’t be made right now.
No one knows how it will affect Morehouse College and Riverside Military Academy in the long run, but that is the cost of being first.
Written by: Kyle Grondin