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College Sports Crisis: Financial Management VS Student Welfare

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ollege sports have reached a pivotal point amid financial and student welfare concerns, following announcements the Big Ten and NCAA basketball championships will return in 2020.

The United States has lost over 200,000 lives to COVID-19 and amid the onset of the pandemic, college sports were cancelled.

League officials who opted not to play this season cited concerns about the increased risk of myocarditis, a potentially deadly heart condition, linked to COVID-19.

NCAA chief medical officer, Dr Brian Hainline, said: “between one and two percent of all athletes who’ve been tested by NCAA members have tested positive for the coronavirus, and that at least a dozen have myocarditis,” Dr Hainline said.

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle (myocardium), and can affect your heart muscle and your heart’s electrical system, reducing your heart’s ability to pump and causing rapid or abnormal heart rhythms.

League leaders were met with political pressure to resume the season, alongside legal pursuits from parents and students, after announcing months ago the season would be cancelled due to health concerns.

As reported earlier this year, the loss of the 2020 college football season could cost college sports USD$4 billion.

Washington University director of sports business programs, Patrick Rishe, said the financial impact of cancelling a season is “astronomical”.

“Athletic departments will see astronomical financial implications if the football season is cancelled,” Rishe said, leaving college sports not much financial flexibility.

Having initially postponed its fall football season in August, the Big Ten is set to resume competition on a tight schedule, with each team to play eight games in eight weeks.

The league has developed new protocols for testing athletes for COVID-19, cardiac screening and an enhanced data-driven approach when making decisions about practice and competition.

Michigan Wolverines coach, Jim Harbaugh, said he is excited for the return of college football.

“Great news today,” Harbaugh said.

“Over the past month, I could sense the anticipation from our players and coaches, and I’m thrilled on their behalf that they will have a chance to play a 2020 season.

“Stay positive.

“Test negative.

“Let’s play football,” he said, following the announcement of the return of the season.

The Pac-12, which also postponed its fall football season last month, has not announced plans to resume and is reportedly expected to stay firm on its original decision.

The NCAA basketball championship seasons have been given the all-clear, however, no exhibition games or scrimmages will be allowed.

NCAA senior vice president of basketball, Dan Gavitt, said: “it is a grand compromise of sorts and a unified approach that focuses on the health and safety of student-athletes competing towards the 2021 Division I basketball championships.”

The governing council also placed a limit on pre-season practices permitted in the lead up to the competition and changed the maximum number of games a team can play to 24 or 25.

Conferences and individual schools will make adjustments to adhere to the Division I Council’s plan for the season accordingly.

“By Thanksgiving week, the date of Nov. 25, 76% of all Division I schools will have either finished their fall semester completely or released the general student body for in-person instruction,” Gavitt said.

Competition will resume in the coming months, with the Big Ten kicking off on October 24 and the NCAA basketball season starting as early as November 25.