Commentary: Should the university bring back winter sports?

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered our day-to-day lives in ways that we never could have expected, and it has also altered many of the daily operations of the university.

Ice Hockey
Teddy Gelman/THE REVIEW
The COVID-19 pandemic has altered our day-to-day lives in ways that we never could have expected, and it has also altered many of the daily operations of the university.

BY
Senior Reporter

For most students, the last two semesters have easily been the most unique, difficult and stressful semesters of our lifetimes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered our day-to-day lives in ways that we never could have expected, and it has also altered many of the daily operations of the university.

Like most colleges and universities, the university is going through a period of financial “hardship” as cost cutting measures were outlined in an email from President Assanis to students and faculty on Sept. 24.

“To help close that budget gap, we have instituted a salary freeze for all faculty and staff, cut salaries for senior administrators, curbed expenditures and reduced our part-time workforce,” Assanis said. “We have also reduced our overall operating budgets while leaning on UD’s endowment portfolio to help cover the projected deficit.”

Admittedly, the university has had much more important issues to deal with than working to get Blue Hen’s sports back. However, recently, the football team and the men’s and women’s basketball teams have announced their return to action.

The Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) announced the return to play for the aforementioned sports within the last month, and according to CAA Commissioner Joe D’Antonio, health and safety remain the top concern for the conference.

“There are a number of protocols and challenges that still need to be met to make sure that games can be conducted in a safe environment for our student-athletes, coaches and staff members,” D’Antonio said in a statement. “Health and safety remain at the forefront of every decision we are making, and we are excited about the possibility of having our student-athletes back on the court.”

The return of football and basketball bodes well for the university, as these are the two collegiate sports that bring in the most revenue.

Men’s and women’s basketball brings in most of its money through the postseason tournaments (including March Madness) and ticket sales.
Football is the top revenue stream for Division 1 sports, and it actually brings in more revenue than the next 35 sports combined according to a 2019 study.

Surely, the university along with the CAA will do everything in their power to keep student-athletes, coaches and staff safe and healthy amid the pandemic. It’s great for the athletes who get to resume their collegiate athletic careers after having a year essentially stripped away from them.

However, there are many student-athletes who are left out of this equation of returning to play, with uncertainty regarding their seasons. Student-athletes who play field hockey, soccer, ice hockey among other sports are not included in this plan to return to play.

The schools and universities who are a part of the CAA are all struggling with the financial ramifications of COVID-19, and it is understandable to empathize with their strategy of bringing back the two sports that bring them the most money.

However, despite the revenue, this also begs the question: Should we really be bringing back winter sports?

As college football has seen its return to play, many teams have struggled to contain COVID-19 outbreaks.

The Big-10 and Pac-12 delayed their return to action while many of the other conferences began play. The Big-10 returned on Oct. 23, when Wisconsin took on Illinois, but on Oct. 27, they were unable to practice after 16 student-athletes and 12 staff members contracted COVID-19.

Other college football programs have seen outbreaks of COVID-19, including Florida, Baylor, Ole Miss and Navy.

Programs are having trouble with COVID-19, and with cases in the United States on the rise, it may not be the most ideal idea to bring back winter sports in Delaware.

The state of Delaware had done a solid job at handling the pandemic. However, over the past week, there has been an average of 349 positive COVID-19 cases per day. This is an increase of 107 percent from the average reported two weeks earlier. The total number of reported cases in Delaware sits at 29,755 cases, while there have been 742 total deaths due to the virus.

The university has also seen a spike in cases, especially since the beginning of November. As of Nov. 8, there are 113 positive cases on campus. Two weeks prior to the spike, the university had only seen 19 positive cases.

Just recently, the university’s men’s basketball team paused all team activities after one of its members tested positive for COVID-19 .

Delaware’s COVID-19 numbers don’t seem as extreme when you put them into the scale of the nation, but the football and basketball teams will not just be staying in Delaware.

The schedules for the football and basketball teams are conference only, so Delaware will only be traveling as far north as Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts and as far south as University of North Carolina-Wilmington in Wilmington, North Carolina.

It is reasonable for the university to take the chance to bring back football and basketball, but it comes at a steep price and raises many questions.

How does a COVID-19 outbreak look for one of Delaware’s teams? How will a COVID-19 outbreak impact students who are on campus? How will an outbreak impact Delaware’s plans to return to campus in the spring?

The easy answer is that we won’t know until they try, and if teams do resume play without any outbreaks, it will provide a great deal of confidence for the university, as it increases its maneuvering around COVID-19.

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