Although sports fans can see professional sports leagues return to action, collegiate sports present a different challenge. As a result, many colleges elected to postpone fall sports competitions until the spring— PLNU included.
PLNU Athletic Director Ethan Hamilton said that after many discussions and long days of meetings, the university decided to postpone fall sports until the spring semester. Unlike professional athletes who are paid to play, the amateurism of collegiate sports presents different obstacles to resume, focusing on the health and safety of student-athletes.
“[We were] trying to be creative to pull off a return to competition and training [and] practice as safely as possible for our student-athletes. Ultimately, we deemed that was not possible for fall sports,” Hamilton said.
Similarly, the NCAA canceled all fall sport championships across the country at each of the Division I, II and III levels. In his statement, NCAA President Mark Emmert cited that along with the health and safety risks connected to hosting championships at several sites, there are not enough schools participating in fall sports competitions to justify playing for championships.
“The Board of Governors also said, ‘Look, if you don’t have half the schools playing a sport, you can’t have a legitimate championship,” Emmert said.
Although some universities are still attempting to forge ahead with their fall seasons, PLNU’s athletics department determined this would not be possible while maintaining safety for student-athletes. There are five sports at PLNU that have fall competitions: men’s and women’s soccer, women’s cross country, women’s volleyball and women’s golf. These teams currently do not have access to the athletics facilities on campus, as they need approval from the institution, county and NCAA before that can happen.
“We are hopeful to gain access to athletics facilities and coaching staff’s [facilities] sometime this fall semester,” Hamilton said. “We still have several steps to make that a reality.”
Since fall sports are now scheduled for next semester, PLNU could have a heavy dose of athletic competitions on its campus in the spring.
“It will definitely look different. All of our 11 sports are scheduled to be played between January and May,” Hamilton said. “This will be a challenge for our staff and limited facilities, but we are still very hopeful and focused on providing a really good experience for our student-athletes.”
There are still many unknowns in the athletics schedule, but Hamilton and others in the athletics department and at the university continue to develop and adapt plans while dealing with the limitations due to COVID-19.
Some short-term effects of canceling sports seasons have been evident as spring sports already had to cancel their 2020 seasons. With many fall sports being forced to do the same, there are issues with revenue, eligibility and recruiting for college teams. Long-term effects remain unknown, but Hamilton thinks the past several months could have a significant impact on college sports, especially at institutions like PLNU.
“The men’s basketball Division One March Madness tournament (and the TV revenue generated from that) is what funds all of the NCAA championships for all three divisions,” Hamilton said. “Since that tournament didn’t happen last year, NCAA DII had to tap into all their reserves and insurance for this year. If that happens again, it could be a challenge.”
For athletes and fans alike, the college sports scene in the fall will be slow, but there is hope the spring will bring a flurry of activity for athletics at PLNU.