Skip to main content
Publish date:

Should the NCAA consider suspending spring practices and recruiting?

Update: The SEC and ACC have suspended all football-related activity for the time being.

The coronavirus outbreak has left football in an unfamiliar position: on the back burner.

Sports in general are small potatoes when you're talking about the potential infection of millions and an economy in free fall, and football is, at this point in the calendar, even smaller still. The NBA has postponed its regular season and the NCAA moved to hold March Madness without fans -- and that's if it gets played at all, which doesn't feel like a given at this point in time.

And yet decisions must be made.

On Wednesday, Ohio State and Michigan moved to pull their coaches from the recruiting trail and to postpone hosting recruits on campus for the time being. Kent State and South . Florida, along with the entire Ivy League and the Patriot League, have canceled spring practices. Dozens of schools are moving classes online and limiting public gatherings to 150 or fewer, and the list grows by the minute.

These are the hard yet necessary decisions that can, hopefully, prevent a bad situation from turning worse. Remember, the best possible outcome here is that we all look back at this six months from now and think, "That was probably overboard, don't you think?"

The last thing the NCAA and its member conferences want is to devise a system that rewards bad actors from going rogue, from telling staffs there is profit in taking the precautions that others aren't. To get that extra visit in while your competitors are at home, to get those practices in while everyone else is on the couch.

After all, this is a sport that constantly reinforces the philosophy that you're only getting better if you're working while others are at rest. It's hard to turn that wiring off, especially when, as far as you know, you and everyone around you are fine.

That's why it would be useful to have a national governing body to come in and force the entire sport's hand -- to shut everything down until further notice. Perhaps spring practices can resume May 1, and the recruiting calendar extends into July. Coaches crave equity, and shutting everything down today wouldn't fully accomplish that: While some schools haven't even started spring ball, a small minority is already finished.

In recruiting, the calendar is in a quiet period through April 14, and spring evaluation runs from April 15 through May 31. Hopefully, by April 15 the virus is behind us and it's business as usual.

Screen Shot 2020-03-12 at 9.45.37 AM

There's a season to be played six months from now, and hopefully Covid-19 will be a relic of the past by then. Shutting down recruiting and spring practices won't guarantee the coronavirus's extinction, but exposing coaches to the handshake-lined recruiting trail of airports, hotels and high schools could prevent the virus's spread within a football building. For that matter, so, too, could shutting out traveling NFL scouts and canceling pro days.

If colleges and universities are telling their students not to sit in a classroom next to one another, how can those same universities ask their football players to sweat on one another?

The idea is to voluntarily make the small -- well, small-ish -- changes today so that major disruptions don't become mandatory tomorrow.