Magazine News Volume 70, Issue 3

The Return of College Sports

by Brian Gewecke

Graphic by Yiying Zhang

With businesses reopening across the country, sports programs, which are treated as businesses, are no different. Several professional sports organizations are already beginning competition, and high school and college sports are beginning to follow. Collegiate sports like football have started their seasons; Although with a few hiccups, such as the Cal football player testing positive for COVID-19. Men’s college basketball has begun practicing and is set to begin the season later this month. Despite sports resuming, certain aspects have prevented such sports from having the same energy, such as the lack of fans in the stands. One looming question is: how the pandemic will continue to impact the near future of college sports?

 One of the most important jobs of college sports departments is recruiting athletes. For the top athletes, college is just a bridge between high school and the professional leagues. For the rest, their college athletics are finished whenever their education is complete. This means that college programs have to be active in pursuing the top young talent to keep a successful cycle alive. However, the pandemic has changed the way incoming college freshmen are recruited, and for the most part, the process is much more difficult for both athletes and sports programs alike. “Colleges will have to rely more on talking to high school coaches and players about using past game film,” said Las Lomas’ men’s varsity basketball assistant coach Ryan Spiegel. “It doesn’t really affect the top recruits because they were already on the radar. The players that needed their senior year to prove they deserved a spot will be tough to evaluate, so colleges will need to work with coaches to get more feedback.” As Spiegel said, colleges are forced to use game film from previous years, as there hasn’t been much of an ability to find any new film at this point in most seasons. This can lead coaches to pursue players who might’ve peaked early and no longer are as good while missing out on potential late-blooming gems. Spiegel also talked about how the new process can hurt athletes, as the pandemic is preventing many athletes from having memorable senior seasons. 

With the growing presence of social media, an increasing amount of sports programs have used it to make contact with recruits. With the current status of sports, the value of social media will likely have an all-time-high value in the recruiting process.

As seen with the collegiate and professional sports that have already resumed, they are far different from the usual. Simply having sports back is enough to be ecstatic about, but without the roar of the crowd, there just isn’t the same electric atmosphere. Although it isn’t ideal for the high school, college and professional sports opening up, having very few to no fans attend games is necessary. “Realistically, games can happen, but we’ll have to be safe in the manner in which we do [it],” said men’s varsity water polo head coach, Steve Mann. “However, at this point, I can only speculate on what will happen and what rules will be enforced. This seems to change daily. Last week, I was certain we would have a winter water polo season…now, I’m not sure. We will just keep practicing in our pods and hope things work out for the best.” Rules for sports today must be flexible and subject to change, he said, as barriers begin to pop up, which is true for sports of all levels today, as leagues will have to be ready to act quickly if an athlete tests positive for COVID-19. 

Senior Ethan Clymer believes that, although most sports will resume competition without fans, some colleges will allow fans at their more prominent athletic events. “I would assume that, for the most part, just family will be allowed in the stands; but I feel like for some of the bigger colleges’ prominent athletic programs, fans will likely be allowed,” said Clymer. His prediction makes sense, as sports bring a lot of money into colleges, so colleges with top teams will likely do everything possible to continue bringing in revenue.

As college sports reopen, it’s important to remember that they are no different from high school and professional sports in the sense that they must be cautious and will likely be very different from the usual. College athletics staff likely share the opinions of Coach Spiegel and Coach Skip, as the limited resources and opportunities brought upon by the pandemic have reduced the abilities of college staff to function as they usually do. Hopefully, college sports programs will be able to return to their previous state within 2 years.