The Impact of COVD-19 on College Basketball
“NCAA Men’s Basketball teams are dropping like flies."
NCAA Men’s Basketball teams are dropping like flies. On December 5th, the highly anticipated game between No.1 Baylor and No. 2 Gonzaga was called off because two people in the Gonzaga program tested positive for COVID-19. This was supposedly the most important matchup of the year. Baylor’s coach, Scott Drew, missed the first two games of the season after a positive test. However, two members of Gonzaga?s traveling party tested positive after a multi-team event in Florida.
The schools want to reschedule the game; however, it would not be smart to do so amid a new wave of coronavirus cases. In fact, many coaches and programs are questioning if they should even continue playing out the season. Since November 25th, when the basketball season began, there have been more than 50 games canceled. Coaches and players are very disappointed with the inconsistency of this season. They have become frustrated because they travel, study the opposing team’s films and prepare for the game only for it to be canceled. Many public health experts and basketball coaches have suggested that the NCAA basketball season should not continue. Dr. Steven Vermud, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Yale’s School of Public Health, said, ”You couldn't be starting a season at a worse possible time ... It would be best to delay the season until there's a better handle on the virus” (Gleeson). On November 27th, when Gonzaga played Auburn, players from each team tested positive before the game; however, the event continued anyways. The coaches were so fed up with games being cancelled that they disregarded the advice from health officials in Indiana. Since then, the number of games being scratched has skyrocketed.
Gonzaga’s basketball program has been shut down through December 14 because of COVID-19 issues. Baylor also missed its game against Texas on December 13 because of positive tests. On December 12th, Florida State University went up against The University of Florida. Keyontae Johnson, a player from The University of Florida, collapsed only five minutes into the game. He was walking to midcourt after a timeout, when he fainted and fell head-first to the floor. Johnson had originally tested positive for COVID-19 this past summer. It seems likely that the reason he collapsed is that he has had prolonged health issues from COVID-19. This is really the first time we witnessed the physical toll of COVID-19 on student-athletes. Keyontae Johnson was in a medically induced coma at a Tallahassee hospital, but on December 15th, he was able to breathe and speak on his own.
All of the above medical problems suggest that the NCAA should halt basketball and other close contact sports. However, colleges are already losing tens of millions of dollars from cancellations. What's more, the NCAA is making a lot of money from sports played by predominantly black athletes -- many of whom come from low-income neighborhoods. Then, this money is spread out among other sports, including those sports involving athletes who are more likely to be white and from higher income neighborhoods. The money also goes to coaches and is used to build pristine athletic facilities. Now that COVID-19 has cut off that flow of money, many schools are being exposed for depending on the money made from athletes, including poor minority ones. One questions the fairness of such an arrangement.