There are four realities playing out as a result of the pandemic:  collegiate sports are being cut,  college sports are being canceled or suspended  many collegiate sports are evaluating their negative athletic budgets, and  HOPEFULLY students are understanding the importance of focusing on academic success more than athletic success.
Some colleges are cutting sports.
As a result of the coronavirus impact on college athletics, Stanford University announced (July 8) they are cutting 11 varsity sports after the end of the 2021 academic year. Among the understandable considerations, there were only two Division 1 field hockey and fencing programs on the West Coast. To their credit, Stanford supported 36 varsity sports, while the average Division I athletics program sponsored 18.
Currently, 80 programs have been cut across all college divisions. Most are small team sports. To abide by Title IX rules, men’s teams may be the first to be cut.
Some colleges are canceling sports (just for the fall).
In the first move among Division I universities, the Council of Ivy League Presidents announced (July 8) they are suspending all intercollegiate athletics for fall 2020. Practice will be allowed if students abide by college and state guidelines.
Of note, the only Ivy League sport that does not participate in the postseason is football. I don’t think this decision will affect other football programs. As of today, the Texas vs. OU, Army vs. Navy, and Alabama vs. Auburn games are still on!
The Division II Morehouse College Maroon Tigers announced (June 26) that they will not participate in football or cross country during the fall semester. They will honor all athletic scholarship awards.
On July 7, the Centennial Conference (Division III) “decided to suspend any inter-collegiate competition for sports scheduled for the fall semester.”
Some colleges are laying off coaches.
Sports Illustrated reported that Youngstown State will cut 20 coaches with others taking pay cuts but will not eliminate any sports programs.
Stanford will lose 22 coaches.
Some colleges are cutting scholarships.
UConn announced (June 24) they are cutting some scholarships and eliminating four sports.
Combined the UConn men's tennis, men's swimming/diving, men's track and cross country, and women's rowing had revenues of $403,000 and expenditures of $4,169,000 (only 10.3% of the expenditures is covered by revenues). Of course, at public universities, taxpayers fill the gaps.
It is devastating.
Colleges athletic departments want to offer competitive sports for their alumni, avid fans, to advertise their college, and recruit potential students. They also want to make money.
Collegiate athletes want to compete at a higher level. They want to prepare for a career in sports. They want to represent their country at the Olympics.
Collegiate coaches want to coach at a higher level. They want to train athletes to be better men, women, and citizens. Now many, along with their staff, will lose their jobs if not reassigned.
The timing of these decisions significantly impacts incoming freshman and current students on teams being cut. They won’t have time to transfer or consider other options. It’s coming at them too quick.
How Will You Respond
While some colleges will be faced with the decision to eliminate certain programs, others will benefit from the increased pool of talent looking to join competitive programs.
I believe the timing gives rising seniors a chance to scan the college landscape to find other athletic programs. They may have to step up their game to be more competitive, on and off the field, since more athletes will be looking for fewer spots on rosters.
With college budgets being cut (especially public institutions) and athletic scholarships being cut, all future student-athletes need to understand the importance of earning high grades to earn merit aid (the best way to pay for college) and private college scholarships.
What steps are you taking to prepare to compete in college in the sport of your choice?
What steps are you taking to prepare to complete college with a bachelor’s degree?
Take time to research your chances of playing college sports (I can help you with this research!), which colleges to apply to for academics and athletics, earning scholarships, and the total cost of attendance.
How Will You Mentally Prepare
Once you recognize and accept the challenges that are between you and your athletic goals, you need to prepare mentally. Mental health will improve your physical health.
The best way to mentally prepare is to sleep. Sleep deprivation leads to depression, stress, anxiety and affects how you see and interact with the world around you.
One way to prepare is to attend mental health webinars with speakers like Bryn Dresher (Twitter, Instagram), who recently spoke with the Online Youth Empowerment Academy community. In a very simple, yet impactful way, she helped student athletes (and their parents) discover belief systems that were holding them back and aught them how to develop a winning mindset where anything can be realized and accomplished.
Another way is to pray. While praying will never guarantee a win, it will provide a path to victory in your life (on and off the field).
As you pursue your higher calling, whatever you do, whatever you play, whatever you study, work at it with all your heart.
So yes, you should work on your test scores with the same dedication as your tennis strokes.
That's right. College athletics. Actually, it's when a few “insiders” secure deals to encourage, no, to ensure that those athletes commit to play a sport in the college the insider selects. For them, it's not about fit; it's about finances.
Speaking of insiders, [James] “Gatto is … accused of helping funnel approximately $100,000 to the family of an "All-American high school basketball player" to secure the prospect's commitment to a school which Adidas sponsors. According to court documents reviewed by CBS Sports Insider Gary Parrish, the prospect committed in June. And the only All-American high school basketball player who committed to a school Adidas sponsors in June is Brian Bowen, a five-star prospect who is now enrolled at Louisville.” (CBSSports)
Individuals like Mr. Gatto have forgotten why collegiate-level sports are the best. They are still pure. These students are future Olympians. They are highly competitive. They’re having fun.
The Goal of Postsecondary Education
For some, athletes are greater than academics. More than 480,000 of the 8,000,000 high school athletes play in college. So, if recruiting a top athlete might translate into more revenue, there are a few adults who would capitalize on this through sponsorships and television deals.
This is what make it tough for people like me.
First of all, I enjoy collegiate sports. I can’t wait for March Madness or the College World Series. My wife and I schedule our fall Saturday’s around college football. She also enjoys watching college gymnastics and cheerleading.
When athletics becomes the priority, it makes it difficult for school counselors, college planners, and college admissions officers to place prospective students in the right academic setting. While many students want to get their college degree while playing their favorite sport, it does put pressure on those teenagers who are trying to balance academics (what is necessary) with athletics (what is challenging and fun).
The mission statements of colleges focus on improving the region and world with education, innovation, health care and more. None of them talk about sports. The goal of higher education is, well, education,
Fortunately, "the likelihood of an NCAA athlete receiving a college degree is greater (than non-athletes); graduation success rates are 86% in Division 1, 71% in Division II, and 86% in Division III" (NCAA).
Unfortunately, college sports has become a form of idolatry for some.
David Wharton of the Los Angeles Times reported on why Reggie Bush, the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner, gave his trophy back.
“Investigators ultimately concluded that he had taken improper benefits from the San Diego sports marketers who hoped to represent him after he turned professional. Bush's family had lived without paying rent in a home owned by one of the marketers.”
Reggie’s athleticism was evident since high school. It had nothing to do with what was going on behind the scenes, but it did violate NCAA rules.
Nothing Has Changed in Decades
Sports scandals are nothing new. Richard Vedder and Matt Denhart (Wall Street Journal) “bemoaned the massive financial exploitation of super good college athletes” in 2009. Taylor Branch, wrote “The Shame of College Sports” in 2011 and in 2012, David Ridpath wrote Tainted Glory detailing athletic corruption, particularly during his service at Marshall University.
Vedder writes, “In short, for many years numerous commentators have outlined horrendous problems with college sports: cheating, exploitation of athletes, the debasing of academic values, the potential long run health effects of high contact sports, and so on. The sex-based scandals at Penn State shocked the nation, as did the revelations of “phantom courses” for athletes at North Carolina.”
Protect Your Children
Parents of potential collegiate athletes need to protect their students and help them make wise decisions about their future. You can’t allow yourself to get “caught up” in the accolades being doled out so you can focus on what is important – higher education.
My wife’s cousin was a high school, college, and club team pitcher who was also in a strikeout battle during the U.S. Semifinal game during the 2002 Little League World Series. There were three major Division 1 baseball programs interested in his arm. So were a few dozen major league teams who wanted to draft him in 2008.
When deciding which university to attend, he ultimately selected the college because of the education he would receive. Since he hurt his arm in college, his full-tuition scholarship was redistributed to the next freshman phenom pitcher. While he’s no longer playing baseball, his parents helped him make good decisions (and had good guidance) that helped him stay grounded.
Build a Solid Foundation
The Bible says the wise build their "foundation on the rock" (Matthew 7:25). Trusting in and applying the Word of God will solidify the building. David Roach, Baptist Press News, reported on the need for a God-focused perspective in athletics.
David Conrady, boys basketball coach at Prestonwood Christian Academy (TX) shared with his team that "it all starts with your foundation of what you believe in. Hopefully, that starts with a relationship with Jesus Christ.... Then we can use Him and His standards as our barometer."
Conrady, who has coached at the college level, said the emphasis on money and winning at all costs among some college programs tempts coaches and athletes to commit the types of ethical and legal violations alleged by the federal investigators.
I personally hate that a few foolish people are using talented high school athletes as a pawn in their personal game of life, and "building their foundation on sand" (Matthew 7:26). While these are not the life lessons we want our students to learn, it is good that those involved in the scandals are being brought to justice.
David Conrady sums this up with a great life lesson, “there's never a right way to do a wrong thing."
I love collegiate sports! In August, football will kick-off and begin to receive a lot of attention (followed by volleyball, basketball, cheerleading…). Each February seventeen-year-old seniors make big announcements (National Letter of Intent) about where they’ll play college by playing college logo roulette. “He’s holding the hat with college logo B, passes over hat A and puts on hat D. He’s going to State University!”
Only in sports.
What should the other potential student-athletes do?
Brennan Barnard wrote an article in the Summer 2017 edition of The Journal of College Admission (NACAC) titled Guiding the 98%: Counseling Non-Scholarship Athletes. In it he shares simple reminders about the athletic recruiting process for the non-scholarship athletes.
Barnard shared a NCAA report that “colleges and universities offer over $2.7 billion in scholarships each year.” This means that only two percent of student-athletes will be awarded any money. So, what about the other ninety-eight percent who still want to play – and need counseling.
Before you begin working with an athletic recruitment counselor…
Now here are your recruiting tips...
Students, you need to focus on developing a plan to earn a bachelor’s degree within four years. Major league baseball rookie Arron Judge earned his bachelor’s degree at Fresno State. He also won the 2012 College Home Run Derby and the 2017 MLB All-Star Home Run Derby. Remember, it’s always academics before athletics.
If you are not in the top two percent who might receive some scholarship money, then this article underlines the importance of comparing financial aid award letters, earning merit aid, and applying for private scholarships.
If needed, I can coach student athletes on what to do and create a list of colleges with competitive bowling and sailing (etc.), but I am not an official athletic recruiter. I cannot offer judgment about your current or potential talent. I can offer unfiltered facts about the reality of collegiate sports.
This weeks guest post comes from Jon Gordon. Parents of student-athletes will connect with Jon as he shares how he almost ruined his daughter's desire to play lacrosse.
This post comes from his new book, The Power of Positive Leadership: How and Why Positive Leaders Transform Teams and Organizations and Change the World, which releases on April 24, 2017 (pre-order now at Amazon or Barnes & Noble).
His Power of Positive Summit (April 10-19) features short messages from leaders from a variety of disciplines. It's a free online event!
Since I played lacrosse in college I encouraged my daughter to play as well. But in elementary school, it didn’t look like she had a future in lacrosse. While the rest of the kids were running up and down the field she would stand still, pick grass, and look up at the sky. It was honestly very frustrating to watch. In middle school she started to get into the action a little more and I saw signs of life. We would often throw the ball around together and work on her stick skills. I saw improvement in practice but when she would play in the games she was very tentative.
I had to admit I wasn’t a very positive leader at the time and by pushing my expectations and frustrations on her, I almost caused her to quit playing. I was a classic transactional parent, where my identity was tied to her success. I read Joe Ehrmann’s book Inside Out Coaching, which is about being transformational instead of transactional, and it changed me as parent.
I still played and practiced with my daughter to help her improve but this time I did so with encouragement instead of frustration. In ninth grade she made the high school varsity team and even started a few games, but was benched because she missed a few passes in key games. I continued to encourage her. We would practice her dodges in the backyard often and she really improved, but she was still tentative and never tried to dodge and score in the games. I started to tell her she was unstoppable all the time. I would say “You are unstoppable, Jade. They can’t stop you. Take it to the goal. You are unstoppable.” This was funny because at the time she was very stoppable.
In the 10th grade she became a starter once again but was benched after not playing well one or two games. I knew she had it in her to be great but she wasn’t showing it. The old me would have yelled at her but the new me just encouraged her and kept telling her she was unstoppable. “Just take it to the cage and shoot, Jade. They can’t stop you. You are unstoppable.” I said it often and she would just smile. I kept hoping and praying she would realize her potential, unsure if it would ever happen. During her junior year I kept practicing with her and encouraging her and telling her she was unstoppable.
And then finally she became unstoppable. She scored 80 goals that season, 8 in the district finals and 7 in the state semifinals, to help her team make it to the state finals. She was named an Academic All American and received offers to play lacrosse in college. It was so enjoyable to watch her play and rewarding to know that we did it the right way. I had to experience the power of positive leadership firsthand before I could write a book on it. From almost ruining my daughter, to becoming a positive leader who encouraged and believed in her, I know the difference it makes.
What could your team accomplish at work or at home if they knew you truly believed in them? What could they achieve if they truly felt unstoppable? It’s amazing what people will accomplish when they know you believe in them. There’s a power associated with positive leadership and you can become one today!
P.S. My daughter decided to go to Clemson, where she is a freshman, instead of playing lacrosse in college but I’m still encouraging her to be unstoppable as she pursues a career in sports broadcasting and digital media.
Combining my youth ministry and educational consulting experience, I guide students to connect higher education with God's calling.