By David Brackman
The good news is that 2020 is finally over.
There is no need to document 2020’s sorry legacy, the coronavirus pandemic and the unexpected, often tragic, personal and economic fallout that transpired. (Not to mention the social unrest.) Suffice it to say that life as we knew it changed in many ways in 2020, most of them not so good.
And for college recruits, 2021 is a sight for sore eyes after a devastating 2020.
High schools and colleges closed and sent their students home to learn on Zoom. Spring sports were canceled in mid-March, including the popular NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. Overnight, high school and college athletes were left in limbo, both academically and athletically.
Sports fans had nothing to watch because all sports, from the pros to Little League, shut down for months. Pro games finally resumed in the summer with abbreviated schedules in a “bubble” or with reduced travel. Pro baseball’s minor leagues did not play at all.
And as if it’s not hard enough for high school athletes to find a college during a “normal” year, 2020 saw the traditional college recruiting process grind to a halt. No games. No in-person scouting. No campus visits.
Colleges eliminated scouting trips since there were no games to see. With many colleges and universities closed, campus visits never happened. Many commitments were made primarily on faith by both sides because even highlight reels were old or incomplete.
A Welcome Light
As we said at the top, 2021 is a welcome light at the end of the dark and treacherous tunnel that has been 2020 -- including the college recruitment process. Hope arrived just before the calendar turned, as COVID-19 vaccines became available to the public in mid-December.
However, it will be several months, perhaps late summer, before enough people are vaccinated for the inoculations to achieve proper effectiveness in the community. Until then, smart people will avoid crowds and continue to follow the guidelines (wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands). And it is likely that until then, attendance at sports events will be restricted, especially indoor events.
Many college sports did resume in the fall – replete with a long list of protocols and changes fomented by concerns about COVID-19, including no fans in the stands or limited attendance – and despite more than a few hiccups in major college football, the post-season bowl games occurred, albeit with smaller crowds.
Major college basketball has also made adjustments, curtailing travel, canceling games and restricting the number of fans attending during its first month. The NCAA tournament will likely be less of a spectacle in 2021, but it appears it will occur.
The whole situation has strained athletic department budgets and many schools have laid off staff, including assistant coaches. At some colleges, fall sports were postponed to the spring.
At many small colleges, all fall sports, including football, were canceled. Colleges and conferences are still deciding how and when to play the fall sports in the spring, which could create scheduling and logistical problems. The start of winter sports, including men’s basketball, have been delayed at many levels of college sports, including NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III and NAIA schools.
Of course, thousands of high schools across America had to adjust as well, including canceling or postponing sports. Many football teams that did play in the fall started late and played fewer games.
Nevertheless, national letter of intent signing day events occurred across the U.S. in late 2020. That covers many of the elite athletes in high-profile sports at major schools.
For everyone else, comfort comes in the fact that there are more than 1,100 NCAA schools (357 in Division I, 308 in Division II and 442 in Division III) along with 250 NAIA schools that offer college sports. That’s 1,357 colleges and universities fielding more than 570,000 college student-athletes.
NCAA institutions offer about $3.5 billion in athletic scholarships each year, while NAIA schools kick in about $800 million. But only about 2 percent of all high school athletes earn any amount in direct athletic scholarships, much less the coveted “full ride”.
We know you’re here at mygotgame.com because you want to join the ranks of college athletes. The opportunities are out there. We will try to sort through it for you in a series of articles, interviews, podcasts and other tools as we transition out of coronavirus fear and apprehension.
In the meantime, continue to follow the COVID-19 rules while you hone your athletic and academic skills. Stay safe and you can make 2021 the year you zoom in on your dream of playing college sports!