A graph on the front page of the July 9, 2020, edition of the USA Today Newspaper brought the severity of the current COVID-19 Pandemic into focus. According to Johns Hopkins University, the first one million cases in the United States occurred within 98 days. The second million came within 44 days. The third million cases were diagnosed in 26 days. So those are the very stark numbers administrators have to take into consideration as high school and college programs attempt to salvage the fall 2020 sports season.
Thursday July 9, 2020 may well be looked upon as the day College Sports changed for the foreseeable future. That was the day the Big 10 Conference announced their 14 member schools would be playing only in-conference football games in 2020. As it stands now, Ohio State would lose huge-revenue home games against Bowling Green and Buffalo and the Buckeyes wouldn’t be able to travel to play the Oregon Ducks for a potentially competitive game. Ohio State could host literally any team which could assemble a squad and sell out Ohio Stadium and its 104,944 seats. The next day, the Pac-12 Conference followed suit, cancelling their non-conference football schedule.
As we noted in a previous column, the revenue from College Football directly finances the so-called Olympic Sports offered at major institutions, which generate little or no revenue. Stanford University announced last week they would cut 11 of their 36 varsity sports at the end of he 2020-21 school year. The cuts include men’s and women’s fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, men’s rowing, co-ed and women’s sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, men’s volleyball, and wrestling. All of those sports with the exception of squash are Olympic Sports. If Stanford, with their $27.7 billion endowment is cutting their sports offerings, think what’s going to happen to athletic departments at financially less-solvent institutions in coming months.
July 9 was also the day the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) announced that all of their sports for the 2020-21 season would be played during the spring semester. Their sports of women’s golf, men’s and women’s cross country, basketball, football, soccer, women’s volleyball, water polo and wrestling will start their practices in mid-January, with competition slated to start in February 2021. I believe the CCCAA action is a predictor of the forthcoming decision of the California Interscholastic Federation, the governing body of high school sports in the state, when their section commissioners meet July 20, 2020.
Educators are typically and rightfully risk-adverse. With a dramatic upswing in COVID cases in California now, and with the Los Angeles and San Diego School Districts going to online only education in the fall, the hope of offering high school sports in the fall grows ever dimmer.