The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) has given the green light for some fall sports to get underway. Golf, tennis and cross country can begin competition August 19 and 21. The decision for football, volleyball and soccer isn't expected until August 20.
The experiences of professional and collegiate athletes bring up more questions about resuming competition than answers. John U. Bacon is Michigan Radio's sports commentator. He has been keeping an eye on professional and student athlete's return to the field.
The MHSAA’s decision to resume in-person competition does not align with some school districts' decisions to keep classwork remote, said Bacon. He calls it questionable decision making.
“When the Grand Valley school system has just announced this week that they are going to be virtual for the first nine weeks, how can you ask high school football players, and tennis players and so on, to take risks that the students themselves are not taking?”
This week the Michigan State football team has gone into a 14 day quarantine. Two staffers and one athlete have tested positive for COVID-19. According to Bacon, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has not given significant guidance to the coaches or players about the trajectory of the season.
“I can say unequivocally, the NCAA has left a vacuum of leadership,” he said.
Bacon argues that both high school and collegiate athletes have little say in whether they continue their season, while professional athletes have more control because they are employees. But the professional teams are already facing challenges. Seventeen players and two coaches on the Miami Marlins have tested positive for COVID-19.
“What [professionals] can do is make a rational decision as adults based on money alone. A college kid can’t [choose whether to play] because they’re officially of course, not employees but student athletes. So you can’t quarantine them necessarily against their wishes,” Bacon said. “It’s far more complicated in college than the pros, and the pros are already screwing it up.”
This should be a time to rethink unnecessary league rules both for collegiate and professional athletes instead of trying to return back to a normal season, Bacon said. Plus, health and socialization should be prioritized, not the competition.
“We have a crisis here that’s far bigger than sports,” he said. “We have a chance here to change some things that should be changed anyways and a chance we probably will not have going forward.”
This post was written by Stateside production assistant Catherine Nouhan