This is the first piece in a seven-piece series I’m writing about the effects Covid-19 could have on the NCAA season.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected us all in numerous ways. The horrific economic stress it’s put on the average American has been crippling for many. Beyond the specifics, it’s clear that this pandemic has put a tremendous stress on our way of life. Everything is different. Moving forward, the word “Normal,” may have a new definition for many of us, which scares most people. As a college student, my peers and I have been hit hardest when it comes to losing our sense of normalcy. We’re all ready to get back to that normal state, but is the NCAA?
1. Sports Fans Need Normalcy
I briefly touched on this earlier, but as a culture and country we’re all extremely desperate for normalcy to return. Sports has always been the great equalizer for many folks during times of unrest or controversy, and it’s not different this time around. For millions of people around the country, college basketball not only brings enjoyment, but also peace of mind. It’s a break for us away from all of the stresses of daily life, which is most needed at this moment. Stresses in our daily lives have exceeded what we’re used to. Unemployment is higher than the 2008 economic recession. Due to issues with importing, prices are higher for basic goods and folks are simultaneously earning less money due to less hours at work, or lost jobs. Our mental health may be at an all-time low due to long periods of isolation and civil unrest in our communities. Sports has an amazing way of healing some of these problems.
Some professional sports have come back in the United States, but the national consensus is that the product has been underwhelming. The NBA playoffs don’t feel like the playoffs. Baseball is only playing 60 games. MLS did the “MLS Is Back,” tournament, which actually seemed to be the most successful of the bunch. That being said, nothing brings people together in support of a common thing like NCAA sports. For us college students, life without sports isn’t an option.
I go to UNCW, a school that doesn’t have football but has a solid mid-major basketball program. I can’t even imagine life without a packed stadium for home games against College of Charleston, William and Mary, and Hofstra. Without sports, it just doesn’t feel like an collegiate environment.
2. The NCAA and Schools Need The Money
Need may be a strong word when discussing the NCAA, but many schools have cut programs and some even had to close their doors altogether due to the negative financial impact. Last year the NCAA lost $933 million in solely ad revenue when they canceled the NCAA tournament. While the NCAA never seems to have a problem financially, that’s still a big hit. The NCAA Tournament is the biggest monetary event of the year for the NCAA across all sports. Yes–even more than the College Football Playoff. If we ever want to push the NCAA to pay its players, that revenue stream will be a focal point of the argument. That being said, it’s actually in the players and fans best interests that the NCAA makes as much profit as possible.
Cincinnati, Stanford, and 17 other Division I have cut at least one sports program since the beginning of the Covid-19 induced pandemic. That’s horrific for college athletes and their future careers. Most notably, Cincinnati cut it’s men soccer team, shocking the student-athletes and sending shockwaves throughout the national collegiate community. Many schools are still in the process of eliminating non-revenue sports programs, but smaller schools with less boosters have had to decide if cutting major sports (Like men’s soccer) is a necessity.
The monetary issue many schools around the nation are facing may show the ugly and irresponsible side of collegiate athletics. Due to great financial success from football and basketball programs, many schools have seen a large influx in habitual spending on non-necessities. This is an issue that now has to come to light due to lack of financial revenue.
3. Preserving The College Basketball Product
This has been a hot topic conversation in the college basketball world for the last couple years. A lot of big time recruits recently have chosen to not play college basketball, and instead took their talents overseas. LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton are the biggest names to do so, and they’re success (A.K.A. their draft stock) didn’t really take a hit. This is a huge option now for highly-touted recruits.
If the NCAA decides to cancel the basketball season, a lot of big recruits will go overseas or explore other options. If they have success doing that, the college basketball product could take a very serious hit until they choose to pay players.
College basketball is something that millions of Americans love. It gives opportunities to student-athletes to achieve their dreams on the court and in the classroom. Without it, even for only one season, all of that is at stake of collapse. The basketball ecosystem as we know it could change, for better or for worse.