August 24, 2020

College Volleyball and COVID 19

What everyone had hoped was just going to be an issue for the spring sports of collegiate athletics, is now a trainwreck of fall collegiate sports.

As I understand it, the NAIA, NCAA Division II and NCAA Division III have said no fall sports or championships, and NCAA Division I said no fall championships except for Football.  But, the Big 10, Pac 12 and the MAC said they are shutting down all fall sports. The Big 12, SEC and a number of other conferences are still on for sports but since the NCAA said no championships, then their volleyball teams are just playing for a league title.

For those conferences and schools which are still competing this fall, because of COVID 19's particulars and the starting up of on campus collegiate instruction (and all the non-academic social situations inherent in the life of college age kids), athletic participation could quickly come to an end if a campus sees a spike in infections.  Unless collegiate campuses mandate masks, create enforceable social distancing mechanisms and have access to rapid COVID 19 testing, it is hard to see how colleges are going to keep their infection rates low, especially in those regions of the country already experiencing high COVID 19 positivity testing.

How does all this affect college volleyball - Well, thing are going to be disjointed until Fall 2021.  Without being political, in observing the history of this pandemic in the US, it is hard to see COVID 19 being controlled until there is a widely available vaccine.  If the current collegiate athletics stance holds, then we will have a few programs competing in a league only fall schedule, and the vast majority will be pushed off to the spring.  In addition, even those conferences/schools which are competing, will not be working towards a National Championship.

In stepping back and looking at the big picture, there is the opportunity to make lemonade from lemons.  All sports will be forced to adjust and shorten their schedules, but half of something is better than all of nothing.  My suggestion for all the mighty mighty administrators of this collegiate world, both with schools, conferences and organizations is the following:

  • No team competition until January of 2020 for any sports.
  • Individual and small group training in the fall, with enforceable safety precautions and rapid testing (this means no "pick-up" basketball games or "open" gyms/fields for any sports).  Here is a great idea, focus on academics this fall!!!
  • January 1st (no more need to watch the Poulan Weed Eater Bowl - my favorite name ever), traditional winter sports begin - Basketball, indoor track, etc.  All fall and spring sports still in Individual and small group training.
  • March 15 - Indoor sports Championships conclude and Fall Spring Sports begin.
  • June 15th - Spring and Fall Sports Championships.
Of course, this plan is already perfect and needs no alterations of any kind - But, consider the opportunities for marketing and promotions.  Sure, it is a shorter season for all, and there will be a big stress on the facilities and training/support staffs, but this should be a one time situation.  College sports fans can go on a 5 month binge of collegiate sports with no slow or down time - The sports channels will be be full of quality competitions back to back to back.

College volleyball will be disjointed this academic year - Unfortunately, college volleyball players, families and fans will be reacting to situations which are outside of our control.  Hopefully, whether it is in the Fall or the Spring, college volleyball will get on the court and the whistle will blow.

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